Midterm madness: elections grab student attention

As campus buzzes this month with midterm cramming and fall break anticipation, another sentiment is also in the air – election season.

General elections will be held Tuesday, Nov. 2, determining the races for U.S. and state Senate and house seats, as well as the Governor’s office.

In an effort to get more students involved in the electoral process, the Office of Public Affairs has been working to provide strictly nonpartisan information about the election and voting process to students, many of who will be voting for the first time this fall.

Steve Schultz, the manager for governmental and community affairs in the Office of Public Affairs, said information availability is the focus of campus efforts.

Schultz said being an educated, ethical and informed leader involves exercising the right to vote.

The office has been promoting early voter registration lately in an attempt to reduce traffic at campus polling sites. Although pre-election voter registration officially ended Wednesday Oct. 13 at 5 p.m., students will still be able to register on Election Day at the polling site.

Schultz said the Office of Public Affairs and Alumni Council of the Les Aspin Center for Government have led programs in order to promote early voter participation since 2006. During the 2008 presidential election, more than 1,000 new voters registered at Marquette to vote in what turned out to be an election with record-setting voter turnout.

The Office of Public Affairs is also distributing information on how, where and when to vote. The office’s website provides the most information, including where and how to register, campus voting locations and links to provide students who live outside of Wisconsin information on how to vote via absentee ballot.

Information will also be available on Election Day at the polling sites from poll workers and individual site managers called chief inspectors. Dave Neugent, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and the Les Aspin Alumni Council president, is serving as the chief inspector at the Alumni Memorial Union polling site.

“(My job is to) clear up confusion and make it easier for students to register the day of, and to make sure all the numbers and votes match the number of voters,” Neugent said.

The Office of Public Affairs website also features a music video from the Marquette comedy trio, the Spanish O’Donnells. The video, entitled “Rock the Vote,” comically explains the importance of voting.

Kyle Willkom, a junior in the College of Business Administration and member of the Spanish O’Donnells, said persuading students to vote was the goal of their music video.

“We felt the voting video was a great project to take on because we understand the importance of the student voice being heard,” Willkom said. “Student participation could have a dramatic effect on an election, and we thought that we could be advocates of that idea.”

Story by Willy Christensen

Special to the Tribune