Campaigns, organizations prepare for vote



Bridget Nyland

In preparation for Tuesday’s presidential election, campus groups have been active in organizing efforts to promote student voting. SGA is providing information about and access to voting locations, while student-run political groups have worked to raise awareness about a variety of issues involved in the election. All of these efforts come at a time when political involvement is peaking among students, as indicated by a random poll of undergraduate students. The poll reports that 87.80 percent of students plan to vote and that 52.26 percent intend to vote for Obama.Villanova students who wish to participate in the election have two possible ways of voting. First, they can vote in their home district by returning home on Election Day or voting via absentee ballot. All absentee ballots must be received by a student’s home voting district by 5 p.m. on Election Day. The second option allows students to vote in the local area if they are registered in one of the local voting districts. The deadline to register to vote in the state of Pennsylvania was Oct. 6. Registered voters living on campus vote at one of four polling locations, depending on which residence hall they lived in when they registered.Villanova’s campus is split among four different voting districts. Students living in Katharine, Stanford and St. Monica Halls vote at Rosemont Plaza in Bryn Mawr, while residents of Caughlin, Good Counsel and McGuire Halls vote at Rosement Presbyterian Village in Bryn Mawr. Students living in all residence halls on both West and Main Campuses vote at Radnor Elementary School, while residents of Moriarty Hall vote at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Wayne.Students must take into account that their polling location is based on how they are registered.”It’s not necessarily where you live, but it’s where you lived when you registered,” SGA Vice President Robert Dormish said. If students registered to vote last spring before the primary but have not changed their registration to reflect their new residence, they are registered in the district of their former residence hall.Students who are unsure of where they are registered to vote can check online by searching Pennsylvania’s voter registration database at order to encourage voting among students who are registered in one of the four local precincts, SGA has planned shuttle services to all four polling locations for Tuesday. Two school buses and one van will make trips throughout the day.One bus will depart from Pike Lot to bring students to the Rosemont Plaza and Rosemont Presbyterian Village locations. Another bus will depart from the SEPTA Lot behind the R5 station to bring students to Radnor Elementary School.Buses will leave from campus every half hour on the half hour. The first bus will depart at 8:30 a.m., and the last one will leave at 7:30 p.m.The buses are only open to Villanova students. Students from other colleges and local residents will not be allowed on the buses. Because of this, students are required to bring their WildCards to gain access to one of the buses.Each bus will have at least one SGA representative aboard to answer any questions students may have.One van will transport residents of Moriarty Hall to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. The schedule of the van will be arranged by SGA and the Moriarty Hall RAs based on the residents who need transportation.”We would recommend that people designate an hour for voting,” Dormish said. He also said that students should bring a secondary form of ID and their voter registration card.SGA has taken the lead in facilitating student access to the polls after its year-long effort to get students registered to vote.”We recognize that voting is a very important process,” Dormish said. “We feel it’s our duty to get people to the polls to take advantage of the opportunity to vote.”SGA will also be publicizing its shuttle service through the NewsWire, flyers and tables at the Oreo.While SGA has focused its efforts on providing students with the information and transportation necessary to participate in the election, various student groups have worked to raise awareness about specific issues pertinent to the election or to support specific candidates.Villanova College Democrats have worked to help the Obama campaign this semester. The group kicked off this year with a convention-watching party in August. Since then, the 50-member group has worked with the local campaign in grassroots efforts across the area.”We’ve been trying to get a lot of people out canvassing the area and working with local campaign efforts,” said sophomore Courtney O’Brien, treasurer of College Democrats. “The biggest issue has been transportation.”Though there are many local events, getting members to events is often difficult. For example, though there was an Obama Rally at Widener University in Chester, Pa., on Tuesday, the group struggled to get members to the event. However, College Democrats has been active with on-campus efforts.”We were very active in the beginning of the year registering students,” O’Brien said. “We’ll be out this weekend and next week passing out flyers with information about voting locations and campaign issues.”College Democrats will also be working with Villanovans for Obama next week to sell T-shirts to promote the campaign. Group members said they hope the increased publicity will help Obama’s chances in Pennsylvania as the election nears.”For a traditionally conservative campus, we’ve been seeing more people than usual supporting Obama, so that’s encouraging,” O’Brien said. “However, polls can change dramatically in one week, and we don’t want to leave this up to chance. We’ll be out full-force next week.”The Obama campaign itself has also been active on campus. Besides the visit by Michelle Obama last year, the campaign had actors Josh Lucas and Al Shearer come to campus and help register voters on the last Sunday before registration closed. Villanovans for Obama has also been active on campus, registering voters and promoting the campaign.”A large part of the Obama campaign’s college outreach has been accomplished through Students for Barack Obama chapters,” said Zach Friend, Obama/Biden press secretary. “The passion and dedication of thousands of students has transformed this movement into the official student organization of Obama for America and one of the largest grassroots student organizations in history.”The campaign has targeted students extensively throughout the campaign and will continue to target students in the upcoming days.”We’re very proud of the way and the manner in which we have reached out to college students,” Friend said. “We truly believe students may provide the margin of victory in this election. Graduating students are facing a time of great challenges, so it is essential that they have the opportunity to voice their opinion on Nov. 4.”On the opposite side, the College Republicans have largely been organizing activities similar to the College Democrats.”Every politician knows that name recognition is essential to have any chance of winning an election,” said sophomore Anthony Pontarelli, vice president of College Republicans. With this in mind, the group sold Villanovans for McCain-Palin shirts in the IK earlier in the year. In addition, like the College Democrats, the group has been working with the local campaign. The group formed a Villanovans for McCain Committee and has been closely monitoring the national and local election for ways to help.”Members have been making phone calls on behalf of the campaign, as well as helping to send out mailings to ensure that the voters are educated on the important issues,” Pontarelli said.Leading up to the election, the group will be busy assisting the local McCain campaign with its “96-Hour Task Force.” The group will be at local polling stations and helping at the phone bank in Wayne.”We understand the importance of this election and have committed ourselves to doing everything that we can to ensure a Republican in the White House in January 2009,” Pontarelli said.No local college contact for the McCain campaign could be reached for an interview. Both campaigns have stressed that it’s important that the students come to the polls prepared and educated on the issues.”The best student voter would be one that is informed, has seen the issues on the ballot beforehand and can easily cast the ballot and participate in democracy,” said Craig Shirmer, Pennsylvania director of the Obama campaign. “Students have always been at the forefront of change, and we fully expect that this election will be no different as long as students vote.”Additionally, the College Democrats and College Republicans held a debate on Oct. 1 to present their views on the issues and to raise awareness about the upcoming election.Villanovans for Life is another group organizing efforts to raise awareness about the importance of the election. President Clare Ovens said that the group hopes to raise awareness about how the issue of abortion could be affected by the outcome of the election. Oven said that, as of Oct. 28, Villanovans for Life is planning to create a “cemetery of the innocents” by displaying a large number of crosses, which represent abortions performed in the United States, on this coming Monday and Tuesday.”The main point is to get people to realize how big the issue is,” Oven said. “Whichever side of the issue you’re on, you need to consider this.”All of these efforts come as the culmination of a year of rising political activity on campus. In the spring, Michelle Obama, McCain and Chelsea Clinton all appeared on campus, and student involvement in political campaigns has remained strong throughout the year.This high interest in the presidential election is reflected in a poll of undergraduate voters.The survey indicated that undergraduate students appeared to lean toward supporting Obama. However, 9.86 percent of students were undecided, so the election could still swing towards McCain by Nov. 4.While male and female students expressed generally the same support for McCain, female students were more likely to support Obama, while male voters were more likely to be undecided. Seniors tended to be the most supportive of Obama, while sophomores tended to be the most supportive of McCain. Sophomores had the most undecided voters at 17.12 percent. Top issues were the economy, health care, the war in Iraq and abortion.On Tuesday, voters will have the opportunity to vote in various political races.In the contest for president and vice president, the Democratic ticket of Obama and Biden runs against the Republican pairing of McCain and Palin. Additionally, the Independent ticket of Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez and the Libertarian ticket of Bob Barr and Wayne Root will appear on the Pennsylvania ballot, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Web site.All Pennsylvania voters will also have the opportunity to vote for the offices of attorney general, auditor general and state treasurer. Voters will also be able to vote for a Congressional representative and a senator in the state General Assemby for the district in which they are voting.The ballot will also include four questions that cover state spending, spending in Philadelphia and amendments to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter. The first question proposes having the Commonwealth of Philadelphia borrow $400 million for grants and loans to improve public water systems. The second question proposes the merger of the Fairmount Park Commission and the Department of Recreation, while the third question proposes giving priority to Philadelphia citizens when filling civil service positions. The final question proposed having the city of Philadelphia borrow over $58 million to fund critical projects. For detailed information on the four questions, see page 9.Polls at all locations will open at 7 a.m. and remain open until 8 p.m.Elisabeth Roche contributed additional reporting to this article.