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



Students help gain votes

Sam Stryker | Friday, October 1, 2010

On Nov. 2, voters in the 2nd District of Indiana will go to the polls to elect current representative, Democrat Joe Donnelly, or Republican Jackie Walorski to be their congressional representative. Over the next few weeks leading up to Election Day, several Notre Dame students who are interning with either of the congressional campaigns may approach Indiana residents and try to sway them to one candidate or another.

One such intern for Donnelly, junior Conor Bolich, said his Notre Dame education armed him with skills that have proven critical in his time working with the campaign.

“I feel very prepared working on the campaign,” he said. “Notre Dame has done a really good job with communicating and networking skills that are very important in politics.”

Senior Eunice Ikene, also of the Donnelly campaign, said her classroom experiences have challenged her to sharpen her political knowledge. This in turn benefited her work with the campaign.

“Notre Dame has helped with being up to date, such as when a voter asks about health care and small businesses,” she said. “It is not specifically in the curriculum, but when it comes up in class you want to know what is going on.”

Senior Charlie Nejedly is working with Walorski’s campaign. He said he spends his time interacting with voters over the telephone and in person.

“I do phone calls for Jackie Walorski and more broadly the Indiana Republican Party, and I go door to door for Jackie around South Bend and Mishawaka,” he said.

Ikene and Bolich said they spend most of their time making phone calls and canvassing as well. Bolich said these pursuits are critical in understanding what voters expect from their candidates.

“Just going out and listening to what voters have to say has been so important. Canvassing allows you to understand what the voters have to say,” he said.

Ikene said communication is crucial in finding out what voters have to say about the campaigns as well.

“One of my primary duties is making calls to voters who have leaned Democrat,” she said. “You can ask if there are any issues they have and a lot of the time voters complain about negative ads.”

Ikene said her interest in these aspects of campaigning were the driving force behind her decision to work on a congressional campaign this fall.

“I took a class last semester on campaign strategy that focused on polarization and negative ads,” she said. “I wanted to see how it applied to a smaller campaign in north Indiana.”

Nejedly said previous political experience and his interest in the democratic process sparked his inspiration for working on the Walorski campaign.

“I worked at a political action committee this summer and I thought that getting campaign experience in the field would be fun,” he said. “Those who volunteer represent the hard work of democracy. Things like getting out the vote, regular people might not do, but it is important for the democratic process.”

Ikene said one thing that surprised her in her time with the campaign was the lack of basic political knowledge in some voters.

“I find it interesting that some people have no idea what is going on. These are people who are registered voters, who do not even know the opposing candidate,” she said. “The fact that you don’t know who is running, that is odd.”

Ikene also said that for the most part, voters she has personally interacted with have been receptive and polite. However, she said she had one bad experience with a man at one household in Granger.

“This guy took forever to get to the door. When he did, he didn’t even look at me. His dog was yapping and I was scared that it was going to attack me,” she said. “After I was done, he told me he was Republican and to not waste his time.”

Nejedly said working on this election has reminded him of the responsibility Indiana voters are tasked with this November.

“Just staying updated on these midterm elections in general is important for our economy especially in a district like ours. What happens now could mean a job or not for some people,” he said. “It forces me to stay updated on the current events.”