Campus groups camp for votes

Josh Comer and Josh Comer

As the presidential campaign comes to a close Monday night, two organizations on campus promise to keep the fires of democracy lit all night, and into election day.

Camp Vote, an effort lead by Reach Out and the College Democrats, will have members camping out in front of the Union both in anticipation of the opening of the polls and to encourage others to vote.

“We want to simulate the idea of going to wait in line for concert tickets at Ticketmaster for Pearl Jam or R.E.M. or something like that, to get voters more excited, like, ‘I want to go see them, I want to get the best tickets,'” said Jeff Nolish, president of Reach Out. “We’ll be doing a lot of pro-engagement activities for everyone, we’ll support one another, and we’ll inspire each other to get through the night and the whole next day. We want to be the first people in line so we can get our vote in, help organize the rest of the day and get our communities out. Our push will be greater than any other group’s push on this campus hands down. We have the attitude, we’ll make the effort.”

The two organizations are united in their attitudes about the current administration’s handling of our country’s foreign policy.

“I think that foreign policy is the most important issue for a lot of people,” said Katie Hartwell, president of the College Democrats. “The world is not divide and conquer.”

Kerry, according to Nolish, would succeed in re-establishing the nation’s global image.

“I advocate John Kerry because I believe in his anti-war stance,” Nolish said. “I believe in someone who will not only throw rhetoric, but will devote actual resources to benefit our troops and the people of Iraq, delivering real sovereignty to them more quickly.”

Both group leaders worry over the possibility of eligible voters being challenged during the voting process, an area of concern which has grown more pronounced in recent weeks.

“The biggest challenge in my opinion comes from the recent actions of our Secretary of State,” Nolish said. “Sending out 3,600 Republicans to be inside our polls, to look over possible voters like a citizens’ watch, saying they suspect certain people to not be eligible.”

According to Hartwell, problems with provisional ballots could present additional problems for voters.

“Our problems up to this point with the provisional balloting and the rulings this week put up a huge block, confusing people who may not be sure if they can vote or not,” Hartwell said. “That and apathy is something we are really trying to avoid. Our biggest problem to this point has been making people realize that voting affects you directly, that it isn’t some guy in Washington deciding how the country is run.”

These fears and the obstacle of low voter turnout have not dampened the activist spirit of either organization.

“I think it’s do or die at this point, especially for our generation,” Hartwell said. “If we don’t speak up and let our voices be heard we’re be going to war soon. Things are going to get worse if we let the current administration stay in. A lot of us recognize that, and recognize that in the past some have not voted. Now you have to vote, it has such an impact on every facet of our lives. If you don’t support the war, stand up and say it, stand up and vote. Voting is the only way you can represent yourself in this democracy. If you don’t vote, you can’t be heard, you can’t complain, you can’t do anything. You are rendered powerless. To be an empowered citizen you have to vote.”

For Nolish, Camp Vote presents a last minute opportunity to rally the troops.

“There has never been a more important time to get out and vote,” he said. “When you have activists and democrats aligned in this coalition, I don’t think that anything is more powerful. We are prepared that this Camp Vote is an opportunity to have some fun, as well as do everything that we need to do throughout the night and get the job done.”