As President Bush and Sen. John Kerry work the campaign trail in battleground states, Georgetown students have kicked their campaign efforts into high gear here on campus.

With 32 days remaining until the election, politically-themed student groups have planned weekly debates, volunteered at campaign offices and scheduled group-sponsored trips to campaign for presidential candidates in key states including Florida and Pennsylvania.

The increasing efforts at one of the most politically active college campuses in the country reflect what many believe to be the growing importance of 18- to 24-year-old voters in national elections.

Recent polls have indicated that turnout among young voters this November may reach the highest levels in decades.

The youth vote could prove critical in a close election, government professor Clyde Wilcox said, although increased turnout efforts will be crucial in order for young voters to make an impact on the results in November.

“Young people vote far less often than their elders,” Wilcox said. “This has always been true, but your cohort votes much less often than earlier cohorts did . So turnout is really anemic among young people.”

Wilcox said that while college students have historically voted much more often than non-college students of the same age, progress can still be made among students at universities such as Georgetown. He pointed to a recent study of undergraduate voting habits at Georgetown.

“Many of them said that it is too hard to figure out how to vote absentee,” he said, “but many of them can figure out how to download music in one format, translate it into another format, and store it on their iPod.”

University administrators said they are working closely with student groups, including the College Democrats, College Republicans and Campaign Georgetown to encourage Hoyas to vote in the fall elections.

Scott Fleming, assistant to the president for federal relations, pointed to administrators’ collaboration with campus groups to organize a Get Out the Vote concert in New South earlier this month.

The Office of Student Affairs has also manned tables in the Leavey Center to register student voters and assist them in obtaining absentee ballots.

Various political groups have also mobilized to increase student turnout in the upcoming elections.

According to Evan Caplan (SFS ’07), executive board member of the Georgetown University College Democrats, the group registered approximately 500 voters, and has distributed around 800 absentee ballots to students since the beginning of the fall semester.

The Georgetown University College Republicans joined with Georgetown Students for Bush in its voter registration and absentee ballot drive.

Suzie Dyer (SFS ’07), deputy chief of staff of College Republicans, said that her group had distributed 150 absentee ballots, and registered about 15 voters. Dyer added that many students she spoke with were already registered to vote, but hadn’t yet requested an absentee ballot.

Erin O’Connor (COL ’07), co-chair of Georgetown Students for Bush, said her group has planned phone drives, flyering and other efforts on campus to maximize voter turnout.

“I think it’s important to encourage people to get out and vote and to have them encourage their friends to do the same,” O’Connor said. “As the election approaches and the crunch time begins, we plan to mobilize our supporters and reach out to undecided voters and make sure that absentee ballots get sent in.”

The Georgetown College Democrats have already arranged for volunteer trips to battleground states including North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Group leaders hope these trips, one of which is an all-expenses-paid excursion to Florida by plane, will help to increase student involvement in the fall elections.

College Democrats President Scott Zumwalt (COL ’06) said he hopes the trips, planned in conjunction with national Democratic organizations such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will boost turnout among Kerry supporters.

The group also plans to co-sponsor a series of weekly debates with the Georgetown University College Republicans beginning this onday, Zumwalt said.

Jady Hsin (COL ’07), chairman of the College Republicans, said that possible topics for the debates will include the war in Iraq, affirmative action and gay marriage. The Republicans’ efforts will also include an intensive flyering campaign and distribution of campaign literature, Hsin said.

The group also plans to co-sponsor a bipartisan barbeque with the College Democrats this afternoon.

Other campaign-related activities on campus will include election-related debates hosted by Georgetown’s Philodemic Society, group president Joe Sempolinski (COL ’05) said.

“Hopefully . we can encourage students to voice their opinions and learn about the opinions of others, in the end to make a more informed decision in the voting booth,” Sempolinski said. “We think that debate is a fun and exciting way to go about doing this.”

As a former Bush-Cheney intern who has met both Bush and Kerry, Gabriel Baca (COL ’08) is very familiar with the strenuous work involved in campaigning for a political candidate.

But Baca said she still can’t wait to re-enter the election battle in the month remaining until the elections.

“This election is so critical, for everyone,” Baca said. “It is the first election after September 11th and I know that now, more than ever it is so important to get involved, especially as a student. Our generation was attacked and it’s our turn show our support for our troops and become politically active.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.