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Students to cast ballots in mock election

Kaitlynn Riely | Tuesday, October 7, 2008

One month before the real Nov. 4 presidential election, Notre Dame students can cast their ballots today for the next president of the United States in the student government’s mock election.

The purpose of the mock exercise, student body vice president Grant Schmidt said, is to encourage people to discuss the candidates and the issues.

“The point of this is to mobilize the students and get people talking,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t want a simple poll, we wanted this to be an educational process or an event.”

Student Senate University Affairs chair Ashlee Wright, who will be helping to staff the voting centers today, said she is curious to see how the campus aligns itself politically.

“It will be very interesting to get the facts instead of just the stereotypes,” she said.

The results won’t be scientifically accurate, Schmidt said, but he said he is interested in getting a rough idea of how Notre Dame students will be voting in the real election.

Students can vote in one of four locations, Schmidt said. They designed the survey so people could not vote from their rooms in order to create a more realistic feeling of voting, since most students will be sending in absentee ballots instead of going to polling places next month.

Voting stations will be set up today in DeBartolo Hall from 8 to 11 a.m. and again from 2 to 5 p.m., in North and South Dining Halls from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. until they close and in LaFortune Student Center from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Schmidt said all Notre Dame undergraduate and graduate students can vote. Student government is using the Google Forms application to administer the election. The application will ask students to provide their netID, class year, residence hall and gender. Although the program asks for students’ netID, the vote is private and the netID will not show up in results.

They will then vote for either Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, former congressman Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate or Ralph Nader, an independent candidate. Students may also choose to vote to abstain or to vote other, although they may not type in the name of another candidate.

The program asks students to select which issues are most important to them in this election (the economy, foreign policy, energy and the environment, health care, civil liberties, immigration, abortion, education, Iraq War or other) and will ask how closely students have been following the election.

Schmidt said his goal is to have at least 1,500 people vote. He said he does not have a prediction for what the results of the mock election will be.

“My only concern is that it is a good turnout and that the political dialogue on campus is increased by this event,” he said.

Prior to the 2004 presidential election between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry, several student media groups, not including The Observer, held a mock election in LaFortune a week before the election, reported Notre Dame magazine. With 570 undergraduates and graduate students voting, the vote was 47.5 percent for Bush and 46.8 percent for Kerry.

This year, Schmidt said he’s “personally very interested to see how Notre Dame students stand.”

Schmidt praised ND Votes ’08, a campaign of the Center for Social Concerns, and professors at the University for getting students excited about the election. He said he hopes the mock election today will add to the excitement by “increasing the hype,” since, for many students, this year is the first year they can vote in a presidential election.

“It’s a big decision,” Schmidt said. “It’s one of the great opportunities that we as citizens have.”