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Rock the Vote’ campaign planned

Joseph McMahon | Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Troubled by apathy and a lack of participation in student government affairs, the Council of Representatives announced Tuesday its plans to launch its own “Rock the Vote” campaign to encourage a bigger turnout in the upcoming student government elections.

The campaign will begin Feb. 4 and last until the primary election day, Feb. 10, representatives said during the Council’s meeting Tuesday.

Only 3,492 students voted in the student body elections last year and 3,352 voted in the runoff, judicial council president Ashley Weiss said.

“It was the lowest turnout in the history of student government,” Weiss said.

Weiss, who was a vice presidential candidate last year, stressed the need for ways to spread awareness throughout the student body about the importance of voting. She said she has been researching ways in which peer schools have encouraged students to vote.

“We contacted other universities, including the University of North Carolina, to see what we can do and came up with a schedule,” Weiss said.

According to a schedule given to COR members, the election dates will be advertised in LaFortune Feb. 4 with buttons that say “rock the vote” and a similar banner in South Dining Hall. Residence halls and educational buildings will also have posters emphasizing the importance of student government and playing a role in its elections.

The next day, the candidates will be introduced at an informal meet-and-greet. This will be a new addition to the campaign schedule, and representatives at Tuesday’s meeting discussed where such an event should be held to maximize student attendance. Several possible locations were discussed, including South and North Dining Halls and Reckers.

“It would just be sitting, talking and asking questions with the candidates,” Weiss said. “In addition to raising voter turnout, we want students to get to know the candidates more.”

On Feb. 6, the traditional debate will be held in LaFortune. Weiss said a discussion with the Office of Information Technologies is in progress to possibly record the debate and make it available as a downloadable podcast on iTunes. The following day, there will be a panel presentation, “Why should I vote.” Students will also have the opportunity to attend a question-and-answer session featuring all the candidates.

COR members are also considering extending voting sites to several academic buildings, such as DeBartolo and O’Shaughnessy Halls, to make it easier for students to vote.

Many COR members thought the “Rock the Vote” campaign is a step in the right direction to increase student participation in student government.

“I think the whole effort is absolutely great,” student body president Liz Brown said.

Some COR members, however, believe the campaign should focus more on showing students why their vote matters rather than attempting to strategically place meet-and-greet sessions.

“I think we’re looking at the wrong side of the issue,” senior class vice president Chris Doughty said. “The more important issue than where we have events is showing the students why this matters.”

In addition, the Council agreed that the same bylaws that governed the last election would apply to the upcoming one, except for two minor additions. Students will no longer be allowed to work on their respective campaign in student government areas on the second and third floors of LaFortune.

“Campaigns are not allowed to use any government resources,” Brown said. “We don’t want campaigning to be mixed in with any business the current administration is trying to accomplish.”

Student government will also monitor the campaigns’ official Internet domains, including their Facebook and MySpace groups.

“We’re going to monitor the blogs to make sure everyone is respectful and following Notre Dame’s rules,” Weiss said.

In other COR news:

– COR also discussed last week’s Collaboration Fund appeal. All media and non-COR members were asked to leave the room during this part of the meeting.