U.Va. students mobilize vote
Fourth years sacrifice academics, extracurriculars, jobs, embrace upcoming presidential election
As the 2012 presidential election approaches, pundits are speculating about whether young voters will turn out in large numbers, as they did four years ago. Some students, however, who have chosen to devote their time this semester to work on political campaigns and with political organizations, have no doubts about the importance of the youth vote.
To them this election takes precedence over academic and personal commitments. These students have committed to internships in campaign offices, and some have even taken this semester off to focus entirely on campaigning, said fourth-year College student James Schwab, president of the University Democrats.
“Every election is important but this year especially,” Schwab said. “It’s important that we hold [leaders] accountable.”
Fourth-year College student Gracie Burger, who interns for Organizing for America — a grassroots organization promoting the policy goals of the Obama administration — knows just how critical this year’s election is. Burger quit one of her jobs and is taking fewer classes to compensate for the increased time commitment working on a political campaign entails.
It’s not just Obama supporters who are committing their time to elect their candidate of choice. At the Romney for President campaign, interns averaged 5,000 calls a week, fourth-year College student Kate Martin said. Martin completed her economics major during the summer to allow her to work as much as possible on the Romney campaign during peak campaign season.
Campaigning requires more than just endless calls, however. Fourth-year College student Camilla Griffiths, a fellow for Obama for America, said her duties of organizing, canvassing and registering voters require full-time dedication. But this year’s election is an important one, Griffiths said.
“There’s a lot at stake for the youth in this election,” she said.
And University students know that. The College Republicans enjoyed record turnout at their last information session, said Rory Stolzenberg, vice chairman of the College Republicans and fourth-year College student.
Stolzenberg’s own involvement in the Romney campaign has increased in recent weeks.
“Getting student volunteers out to the campaigns … is the way to win [this] election,” he said.
But there are still those who believe political engagement among youth has decreased since 2008.
Politics Prof. Larry Sabato said in an email that although residual effects of the surge in student activism from four years ago linger, turnout of 18-24 year olds will decline, as will support for Obama.