Students at the College of William and Mary are gearing up and taking action during the election season. Through on-campus political groups such as College Republicans, Young Democrats and Libertarian Students, the College has mobilized to rally support for its respective candidates.
Virginia is a contested battleground state and all three organizations are especially focused on making sure students at the College and other Williamsburg residents register and vote.
College Republicans and the independent group Students for McCain have been coordinating their efforts closely.
On campus, Students for McCain has tabled in the Sadler Center to rally student support for Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The majority of their work, however, has been in the surrounding community.
“The best means for getting support for our candidate is going door-to-door to meet registered Republicans and Independents and inform them of the issues,” College Republicans President Scott Morris ’10 said in an e-mail. “We also do flyer-drops for candidates, as a well phone-bank. All of these are very effective means of getting out the vote.”
College Republicans has focused on voter registration drives, making sure that both right-leaning students and Williamsburg residents are registered. They are also campaigning in the state’s Congressional election. For example, last weekend over 20 students traveled to Virginia Beach to canvass for incumbent Thelma Drake (R-Norfolk) as well as [for] McCain.
“[The trip] was a huge success,” Morris said. “The bulk of our campaigning for the next few weeks will entail just that sort of thing: take a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday and really meet potential voters. That’s how you win an election, and, as we all know, Virginia is one [state] Republicans need to win.”
Young Democrats is mustering support through canvassing and phone banks, often collaborating with the independent group Students for Obama. Members of Young Democrats hit the streets of Williamsburg and James City County Saturday, going door-to-door talking to people about the elections and presidential candidate Barack Obama.
At this point in the campaign, activists emphasize voter registration, make sure people know where their polling place is located, and encourage people who support Obama to get out and vote on Election Day.
“Canvassing lets you connect with people, and lets them put a face with the campaign,” Alex Douglas ’09 said. “You’re making sure people realize their votes are important.”
Young Democrats at the College is also campaigning for the candidates in local congressional races, including Virginia’s 1st and 2nd districts. Tomorrow the Young Democrats will canvass in Virginia Beach for Democratic candidate Glenn Nye.
“We’re working for all Democratic campaigns,” Young Democrats President Liz Pedraja ’09 said. “We’ve traveled as far as Charlottesville to canvass [for the candidates].”
In addition, the Young Democrats have organized a phone bank for 1st district Democratic candidate Bill Day, in which volunteers call members of the community and ask for their support.
On campus, Young Democrats is working to register students to vote by bringing Student Assembly members to club meetings with registration forms. The group also hosted speech-watching events during the convention and plans on hosting similar festivities during the presidential debates.
The Libertarian Students group on campus is taking a different approach to the election season.
“We’re technically non-partisan, though obviously we identify more with the Libertarian or Constitution parties,” Libertarian Student President Jason Orr ’09 said.
Libertarians tend to identify with aspects of both major parties, according to Orr; for instance, they support the economic freedom traditionally associated with Republicans and the protection of civil liberties championed by the Democratic Party.
On campus, Libertarian Students is raising awareness on issues relating to their rights and liberties.
“We want to alert the student body to the candidates’ positions regarding their freedoms,” Orr said.
To accomplish this, the group is starting a flier campaign addressing these issues. They are also bringing in a series of speakers.
On Oct. 2, Jim Lark, an engineering professor and campus coordinator for the Libertarian Party at the University of Virginia, spoke at the College. Lark addressed paternalism in government, in particular government mandates on bans on tobacco or trans-fat.
As November approaches, all three groups plan on intensifying their activities both on and off campus. The deadline to register to vote is Monday, Oct. 6. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.