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Student groups prepare for 2016 elections

| Friday, August 26, 2016

Political club graphic webJOSEPH HAN | The Observer

As first years settle in and the 2016 campaign season enters its final stages, politically-minded student groups are helping candidates, organizing events and trying to get the student body informed and excited about the upcoming election. 

Both student groups connected with major political parties are working with party offices in St. Joseph County and creating volunteer opportunities with local and national campaigns. Senior Andrew Galo, co-president of the College Democrats, said the group is working with Hillary Clinton’s campaign office in Indianapolis, as well as her national office in Brooklyn.

After Activities Night brings a new crop of members, they’ll start making phone calls and knocking on doors on behalf of the Democratic presidential candidate — mostly in Indiana, where Clinton is trailing Republican nominee Donald Trump, whose running mate is Indiana governor Mike Pence —but also in places like swing-state Ohio. Galo said he hopes College Democrats will help “turn Indiana blue.”  

“A lot of people are excited about Hillary, so we’re hoping to get a pretty good turnout, both here on campus and in South Bend and St. Joe County, but also in bigger trips, bigger phone banks and canvasses,” Galo said.

Galo said College Democrats also organizes internships with local candidates and with the St. Joseph County Democratic Party. He said members interned this summer with gubernatorial candidate John Gregg; Lynn Coleman, who is running for U.S. House of Representatives in the district that includes South Bend; and other campaigns. Galo said the internships, which the club hopes to expand this semester, are tailored to members’ interests, from canvassing to finance.

“I’d rather go knock on doors than make phone calls — other people are the other way around — and then we’ll get other members who just want to come in and do an issue presentation on something they’re passionate about or something that they’re researching,”Galo said.“There’s a lot of cool ways students have been involved in the past, and we’re hoping to get a big presence this year with the ticket being so exciting.”

College Republicans is also on the campaign trail. Vice president Dylan Stevenson said the club does not have a formal relationship with the campaign for Trump, but that if members wanted to work with the campaign, or on any campaign, the club would facilitate.

On the other hand, the group is organizing campaign activities with other federal and state candidates. One of them is Eric Holcomb, the current Indiana lieutenant governor who took over Pence’s reelection campaign after the latter withdrew to run as vice president. College Republicans is also working with Todd Young, who is running for the U.S. Senate, and with incumbent U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski, with whom Stevenson said the club has a “long-standing relationship.” He said the club will start campaigning for all three starting Saturday.

“[We’re] knocking on doors, making phone calls, making sure what we can control — which is St. Joseph County, the Mishawaka-South Bend area — is aware of who these candidates are and are enthusiastic about these candidates,” he said. “We are very much the boots on the ground, the grassroots activists for these larger campaigns.”

Stevenson said he hopes some of those grassroots activists will be freshly-recruited first years.

“The freshman year is always the most enthusiastic group,” he said.

Other campus groups are getting the word out not to persuade, but to educate. ND Votes is a nonpartisan project by the Center for Social Concerns and the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy with a student task force and representatives from each dorm and more than a dozen student organizations.

One of the task force’s main goals is voter registration — in addition to a Welcome Weekend drive, the group will set up tables to help students register and request absentee ballots in LaFortune Student Center on Sunday nights and, for National Voter Registration Day at the end of September, it will have a registration drive in dorms, said task force co-chair Sarah Tomas Morgan.

ND Votes is also organizing a number of events, including a issue discussion series called “Pizza, Pop and Politics,” presidential debate watches complete with food trucks and homework tables, a Voter Education Week the first week of October and an election watch party.  

“My biggest hope is that students come away well informed, not just about these particular candidates, but about the specific election issues that the candidates are campaigning for,” Tomas Morgan said. “That knowledge of election issues will be the best investment for students’ political life going forward.”   

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About Emily McConville

Emily McConville is a news writer and photographer for the Observer. She is a senior studying history and Italian with a minor in journalism. She is from Louisville, KY and lives off-campus.

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