Brooke Heinichen (SFS ’12) had an unexpected encounter while canvassing Ohio households last weekend with the D.C. Federation of College Democrats. When Heinichen approached the house of an Eastern European family, she was surprised to hear one of the residents shouting his support for “Obama the Communist.”

“I asked him about Obama, and he just went on about how he [and his family] love Obama because `Obama is a Communist and we love Communism,'” she said. “At least it’s one more vote for Obama . though I didn’t ask the guy to volunteer.”

Along with Heinichen, 39 other Georgetown students rode a bus for 10 hours to Ohio last weekend to campaign for Democratic candidates. The students, all members of the Georgetown University College Democrats, traveled north as part of the D.C. organization, which was responsible for organizing and funding the trip.

GUCD Press Secretary Alex Armstrong (COL ’09) said the trip was a way for members to make a tangible and significant contribution to the election beyond the Hilltop.

“We regularly promote outside opportunities for our members, and this event falls under that category,” Armstrong said. “We were thrilled that so many members participated.”

The canvassing students from GUCD represent a microcosm of a larger national trend of youth interest and participation in the 2008 election. According to a poll conducted by the New Voters Project in 2007, 58 percent of young people surveyed said that they are following the presidential campaign, as opposed to just 35 percent in 2004.

Youth participation in elections has steadily risen since 2000, with the highest turnout predicted for this year. The Youth Vote Coalition estimates that 64 percent of young people are registered to vote in this election. So far, data for the 2008 elections projected by the New Voters Project has seen an increase in youth voters in several areas including Super Tuesday states, Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida primaries.

Last weekend, according to Armstrong, Georgetown students made up part of the larger group of 101 students from the D.C. Federation of College Democrats, which draws from Georgetown, George Washington University, Catholic University, American University and Trinity College, who piled into two buses and set out to win over undecided Ohio voters. Armstrong said the group knocked on approximately 12,000 to 15,000 doors in the state in an effort to help the campaigns of Barack Obama and Mary Jo Kilroy, a candidate for the U.S. House seat in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.

The 101 students, assigned to various parts of the greater Columbus, Ohio area, conducted canvassing operations primarily in the outskirts and suburbs of the city. As a whole, Armstrong said the campaign marked a concerted effort to increase visibility and get out the vote in the state.

Andrew Wojtanik (SFS ’12) said the canvassing students also provided information regarding the state’s voting laws. In Ohio, the state government encourages its citizens to vote before Election Day so that there are more manageable crowds at the polls.

Ohio hosts early voting locations, where citizens can go and cast their ballots beginning Sept. 30.

“It is important to get out the vote, but it is better to let them know that they can vote early,” Wojtanik said.

But Wojtanik said many people were either not at home or refused to talk to the canvassing students.

“People in Ohio like to keep their political opinions to themselves,” he said.

The students stayed overnight at the union hall of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 189. Heinichen said the experience was a great way to meet new people since they had to share such a small living space.

“It was fun to stay in the union hall,” GUCD Campaign Coordinator Ella Damiano (COL ’11) said. “It was [still] big enough to hold all of us.”

On Monday, the group set out for downtown Columbus, conducting a visibility campaign at the Ohio State University campus and at a local television station.

At Ohio State, the group set up tables to promote the Democratic candidates and encourage voter registration and early voting.

Heinichen said that she felt there was an overall positive response to the campaigning at Ohio State.

“The kids at OSU were very receptive to us,” she said.

Damiano, who organized the trip, said the group also attended a “visibility event” outside the NBC studio in Columbus.

“Our group of students stood on the street corners of Columbus with Kilroy signs and shirts while her opponent gave an interview,” Armstrong said. “We stood outside the studio to make sure people knew who had more support.”

“The news station closed their [window] blinds on us,” Heinichen proudly noted.

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