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SMC lines up events for Rock the Vote Festival

Liz Harter | Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When Saint Mary’s students walked past the parking lot in between McCandless Hall and the Student Center on Tuesday they were met with the sight of a red, white and blue bus with the words “Voter’s Self Defense System, Project Vote Smart” on the side.

The bus, a part of www.votesmart.org , travels the country with information about the Web site and organization which provides non-partisan, unbiased information on over 40,000 candidates running in local, state and national elections, arrived at the College five hours early and left three hours ahead of schedule due to a miscommunication between Saint Mary’s and the Vote Smart organizers.

“It was a miscommunication between us, we need to be in Indianapolis tomorrow morning which will be a three hour drive or so,” Bob Kastan, the deputy media director of Vote Smart said.

The bus, which had come through South Bend before, had made its way to the College from the University of Toledo and was on its way to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

“Last time we came to South Bend we came to Notre Dame but we try to get to as many campuses as possible so we wanted to come to Saint Mary’s this time,” Kastan said. “It happened to coincide with this Rock the Vote festival so it worked out well.”

Kastan said quite a few students visited the bus while it was on campus who were interested in finding out about Governor Sarah Palin, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain but he knew many students would not be able to visit because they were in class.

“A few people came to us interested in their state candidates because we have information on candidates running in local and state elections in all 50 states,” Kastan said.

The Vote Smart Bus was on campus as a part of the College’s second Super Tuesday event. Every Tuesday through Election Day, Saint Mary’s will host events aimed to inform students about the issues about the election.

Yesterday’s event also included a Rock the Vote festival in the Student Center atrium during which students could get information from the College Republicans, the College Democrats, the Political Science Club and the League of Women Voters, among others.

The College Democrats saw a large group of students, both “hardcore” Democrats and people who were curious about the Democratic Party, visit their booth, which excited Missy Waik, the club’s secretary.

“It’s great that people feel as if their vote counts, which it absolutely does, which can help improve America for the better,” Waik said.

The College Republicans also had a lot of people visit their table, though most of their visitors were self-confessed Republicans.

“A lot of our club members brought Republican friends who aren’t necessarily in the club but wanted to register or vote or get more information,” club vice president Caitlin Sullivan said.


The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



SMC lines up events for Rock the Vote Festival

Mandi Stirone | Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Patrick Pierce, a professor of political science at Saint Mary’s explained that the Electoral College is used as the method of selecting the president at a lecture during the College’s Rock the Vote Festival.

Pierce – part of the Festival’s committee which was made up of faculty, staff and students – said he thought students might want to understand what the Electoral College does in relation to the election.

He discussed the current election and people’s voting inclinations and explained what he thinks people really look for when they vote.

“It’s not really the self-interest thing that drives people,” he said. “It’s finding someone who inspires them.”

The Electoral College was put in place by the framers of the Constitution, something those trying to understand it today need to keep in mind, he said.

“I think the main thing [people ask] is why in the world we would have something like it,” he said.

Democracy was associated with mob rule when the Constitution was written, he said. Because of this the framers were not willing to allow a popular vote but gave the actual vote to representatives of the state to avoid “issues of judgment.”

“The electors were supposed to be smarter [than the average person],” he said.

These representatives come from every state and the District of Columbia. They number of Electoral Votes a state has is based on the number of representatives they have as well as each state’s two Senators, he said.

The states are allowed to make their own laws regarding the Electoral College and in half of the states it is illegal for electors to vote against the popular vote of their state, in the other half, “they rarely vote against the people,” he said.

The few that vote against the popular vote are known as “faithless electors,” he said.

“Imagine how much pressure you face,” Pierce said.

It is possible for the Electoral College to elect a president that the popular vote didn’t elect which is one of the biggest problems many people have with the system, he said.

This has only happened three times, and two of the three, including the 2000 presidential election in which Bush gained more electoral votes than Al Gore, but did not win the popular vote, are “legally suspect,” he said.

He said politicians are reluctant to change or remove the Electoral College because the margin of victory would be smaller, currently it “appears that the public has supported you more.”

“If you want a strong president, you have some reason to be nervous about a national popular vote,” he said.