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Students register to vote

John Tierney | Wednesday, September 20, 2006

With Election Day just seven weeks away, Rock the Vote is revving up to increase turnout at the polls.

Junior Mike McKenna, director of Rock the Vote operations at Notre Dame, said the group has already registered 200 voters and hopes to have 1,000 signed up by mid-October.

Also taking part in the effort to “rock the vote” is the Center for Social Concerns, which is sponsoring a series of political lectures and events to involve students and support the aims of the campus Rock the Vote campaign.

Rock the Vote’s “principal goal is to mobilize students to be responsible voters and to increase the level of political engagement on campus,” McKenna said.

A national non-partisan organization founded in 1990, Rock the Vote is designed to help young people exercise their rights as citizens and to make a positive difference in the community.

McKenna will address the program’s goal this fall both by educating students on the issues and candidates of the election and by registering eligible voters. So far, McKenna said he has spent most of his efforts registering eligible voters this fall. He described student reaction to his efforts as extremely positive, especially among underclassmen.

“Since many of Notre Dame’s freshmen and sophomores were not eligible to vote in 2004, this is the first major election in which they can participate, so many are interested in getting registered,” he said.

Students are encouraged to register in their home district, not in Indiana, McKenna said. While some students believe that their vote might “count more” in the tight congressional race in Indiana’s second district, McKenna said he believes students “will be most familiar with the regional issues and the candidates” in their home states.

Rock the Vote will continue helping students register until the second week of October, when the registration period concludes in most states. In conjunction with Rock the Vote, the CSC has made the national voter registration form available on-line and is also providing state-specific absentee ballot request forms. Both forms can be mailed postage paid from the CSC.

The CSC urges students to register and request an absentee ballot as soon as possible, in order to meet the state-specific deadlines.

The second goal for Rock the Vote is to educate registered voters on the issues and the candidates of the election, McKenna said. The CSC is sponsoring both formal and informal educational events, including a debate on the war in Iraq moderated by a former White House speechwriter, a lecture on immigration reform given by a national leader, a concert featuring student bands, a discussion series titled “Pizza, Pop and Politics” and a T-shirt giveaway in LaFortune.

The kickoff event for this fall will be a “Pizza, Pop and Politics” discussion held tonight at 5:30 in the Coleman-Morse Center. The College Republicans and College Democrats will be on hand to outline their party platforms.

“It’s helpful to work with [these organizations] because all the political groups on campus are concerned with the same goals,” McKenna said. The series of educational events will conclude on Nov. 9 with an analysis of election results.

While Rock the Vote primarily stresses participation in national election years, McKenna said he hopes “the energy and interest in the political process that grows out of this campaign will carry over into non-election years so people will continue to follow politics.”