With the presidential election about two months away, student political organizations are encouraging their peers to vote for the “right” candidate.
Some students, however, are still unsure exactly who that right candidate is, prompting organizations to campaign more actively on campus. As much as the organizations promote a certain candidate though, they’re just as determined to encourage students simply to fill out their ballots on Nov. 2 rather than skip the polls out of a sense of uncertainty.
For sophomore Lauren Galvez, it’s the clashing information from television news stations that makes her decision difficult.
“They’re always going at each other,” said the biomedical science student. “I don’t know who to believe.”
Another undecided voter is Cory Bowman, a sophomore majoring in international business who said he’s going to “try to research both candidates and make an informed decision.”
To get students to vote, two organizations on campus are campaigning for the two major political parties in this election. While the College Republicans at USF and the USF College Democrats support rival candidates, leaders of both groups agree that encouraging students to vote is a priority.
“Students have a new important voting block that is emerging for the first time with real political power,” said Billy Schmidt, former chairman of College Republicans at USF and a senior majoring in political science. “As a newer, unknown demographic, students can bring not only their vote, but true energy to a campaign when they reach out and help.”
The USF College Democrats’ main goal is to ensure that people are registered to vote, said Matthew Coppens, the organization’s president.
“We are asking that provisional ballots be placed here on campus as well in the local community, but we need to get people signed up,” he said.
Student campaigners working for other organizations are also trying to get the word out to students.
Jessica Woolard, a senior majoring in anthropology, works for the Barack Obama Campaign for Change and said the college-age bracket needs to vote, regardless of party affiliation.
“Our generation can make a difference,” she said.
Walking through campus holding a clipboard stocked with voter registrations, Woolard has encountered a number of students who may not vote at all.
“You’d be surprised how many people don’t care (about the election),” she said.
Coppens said he hopes his organization can fight the stereotype that one vote doesn’t make a difference.
“Voting for students is something that was fought for in the 26th Amendment,” he said. “This right was adopted in response to the drafting of young Americans into the Vietnam War. If we can fight for our country, we then should be able to elect those same leaders who are willing to deploy us.”
Both USF’s College Democrats and College Republicans have plans to encourage student voting for the next couple of months.
The USF College Democrats will work with Student Government on “Wake-Up Wednesday,” an event the College Republicans at USF participated in last week.
“We will be making this season fun,” Coppens said. “There will be special events held on campus (and we’ll be) working with local campaigns on helping to push the vote.”
Bulls for McCain, the USF chapter of the Florida Students for McCain coalition, is also generating events to motivate students to engage in politics. Schmidt said he hopes these on- and off-campus events, along with speakers at campus meetings, will get students involved in and informed about political affairs.
“Both campaigns have made a lot of progress turning out and involving students and youth,” he said. “It is important to note that public policy affects students just as much as anyone else. From education to national security, students should begin to form and voice their opinions.