September 21, 2006

Political Groups at C.U. Register Voters

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This week and in the upcoming months leading to the midterm elections, Democrats and Republicans on campus are coming together to promote an issue they both agree on: student registration and political participation.

The push for voter registration on campus is run largely by Mock Elections, a non-partisan organization started for the 2004 presidential campaign. Members of the Mock Election board include the presidents of both the Cornell Democrats and the College Republicans, Adam Gay ’08 and Megan Sweeney ’07, respectively. It is co-chaired by Herbie Ziskend ’07 and Justin Weitz ’07.

“It’s nice to have something that where in it’s base principle we can unite … and develop a healthy relationship,” said Sweeney, who is also a columnist for the Cornell Daily Sun.

Midterm elections are often hard to promote, because students tend to be less aware of congressional elections than they are of presidential ones. As a result, those trying to promote voter registration and turnout face a more difficult battle.

“Some people don’t even know there’s an election” said Ziskend.
Although Ziskend said his comment partly in jest, Will Quartner ’10 admitted, “I couldn’t even name someone running.”

Quartner is not registered, and he does not plan to because he is “lazy.”

Echoing a popular sentiment relayed to The Sun, Quartner explained that unless it is a presidential election, he is “not really concerned about it.”

According to Ziskend, however, this year, more students will be concerned than they have been in years’ past. Due largely to current politics in Iraq and Bush’s recent struggle with poll numbers, many are anticipating or at least hoping that the 2006 congressional elections will have a larger turnout than its midterm predecessors.

Some believe that congressional elections will act as a referendum on the current state of political affairs.

“Usually congressional elections are local,” said Ziskend. “[This year] you might vote based on an national or international level … it’s an anticipated midterm election.”

Ilene Arnsdorf ’07, who is planning on voting, agreed with Ziskend’s analysis: “I think congress is significant,” said Arnsdof. “It affects people more than they realize … and every seat matters in an election like this — you can’t complain about the direction of the country if you won’t do anything about it.”

In order to help students who want to take part in the election, Mock Elections members are tabling all this week in Ho Plaza. Students can choose to either register locally at the tables, or they can talk to those at the table about how to register for absentee ballots.

According to Sweeney, those working at the tables will not be pushing a particular political stance. Rather, they will focus on Mock Elections’ general goal, which is to encourage student participation in the political process.

“Mostly it’s trying to make sure the kids vote; it’s very important, especially in a school like this, where students are more well read … have these opinions, so they don’t just become disillusioned with the entire process.”

Gay agrees with Sweeney’s democratic philosophy.

“Even if you do vote Republican, its better that you be involved in the democratic process,” he said.

As the elections get closer, Mock Elections plans to table more on North Campus so they can attract freshman, who, due to their age, are often not yet registered. Furthermore, the Democrats and Republicans have planned a North Campus volleyball game on Oct. 1. According to Gay, the volleyball game is a means of attracting students to politics through a relaxed avenue.

“If we can get students thinking about [politics] through sports, through social activities … that’s great, that gets them involved,” Gay said.