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Group debates mock elections

Joseph McMahon | Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Student Senate debated whether its upcoming mock election should be conducted with an online survey or in voting booths located throughout campus during its meeting Wednesday.

The mock election, which will serve not only as an informal campus poll but also as way to inform students about the responsibilities of voting, will take place Oct. 7.

“The point of this is activism,” student body vice president Grant Schmidt said. “It’s a mock election, not simply a poll.”

Schmidt said the mock election’s ballot would ask students their class, gender, candidate, most important issue and how close they followed the media’s election coverage. Senators also briefly debated adding residence hall to the questionnaire, but the idea received little support.

Senate University Affairs committee chair Ashlee Wright said access to voting forms would be made available at four booths stationed in the LaFortune Student Center, DeBartolo Hall and North and South Dining Halls. Schmidt said he thought students could access the voting Web site, which is similar to the one used for the student body president election, on insideND as well. This way, students would be able to see the current results of the election.

Many senators and committee chairs, however, felt having the election online defeated the purpose of the exercise, which they said was to give students the feeling they were actually voting.

“We want our students to participate in the great American tradition of going to the polls to vote,” Senate Oversight Committee chair Ian Secviar said.

Howard senator Stephanie Mulhern said the four polling locations would be sufficient for conducting the election, and there was no need to put the ballot online.

“I think that those locations are definitely enough because the point is to get people to consciously go out and vote,” Mulhern said.

Senate Community Relations committee chair Gus Gari disagreed, arguing turnout would be pitifully low if students were forced not only to go out of their way, but also forced to wait in line in order to cast a vote that would have no impact on the actual election.

“If we want to do this like a real election, we might as well get hanging chads and butterfly ballots,” he said.

Gari also pointed out that “18-to-25-year-olds are the lowest demographic that show up in elections,” and doubted off-campus students, who compose 18 percent of the University’s population, would bother traveling to campus to vote.

Lewis Hall senator Robin Brown strongly disagreed, arguing students have a patriotic duty to make their voices heard, even in a mock election.

“This is your country. You shouldn’t be lethargic or lazy and just want to sit in your dorm or your off-campus house,” she said.

In an informal poll, an overwhelming majority of senators and committee chairs said they would rather not have the ballots online. Schmidt said he and the University Affairs committee would “need to define formalities” in light of the senators’ opinions.

In other Senate news:

u Social Concerns committee chair Michelle Byrne and junior Kelsey Scribner, who is also involved with the committee, pitched the idea of using Domer Dollars to make charitable donations, Although no official vote was taken, the majority of senators supported the idea in an informal poll.

“No one carries money with them on campus, and that’s the bottom line” Scribner said. “You can make the decision yourself with how to use Domer Dollars.”

Byrne said the some of the negative aspects were the possibility people would feel too pressured to give and parents would be upset with their children donating their money, which Cavanaugh Hall senator Robin Link dismissed.

“I have a hard time believing that parents of Notre Dame students would be upset that their money could be used to donate to charities,” she said.

u Schmidt announced that student government was organizing block parties to help students living off campus meet their South Bend neighbors to ease tensions about recent arrests and help establish some sense of community. The first of these took place last Friday outside the Robinson Center.

“We’re going to have block parties around South Bend in the areas where students are living,” Schmidt said. “It’s just a good way to bridge the gap.”

Gari, who attended the Robinson block party, said he was in the process of meeting with both Notre Dame Security Police and the South Bend Police Department in order to discuss student safety.