Whatever floats your vote

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

When she wasn't in political science classes or buried in books studying for her LSAT exam, Anne Evans was stalking Campus armed with a clipboard and voter registration forms.

Evans is a co-coordinator of OSU Votes, a nonpartisan student organization focused on registering and educating young voters.

Unlike a lot of other student groups, Evans and OSU Votes don't care how students vote. They just want them to hit the polls on Nov. 4.

"We're unique in the fact that we don't have a political agenda, we just want students to participate in elections," she said.

OSU Votes is a coalition of groups at Ohio State: College Democrats, College Republicans, Undergraduate Student Government, John Glenn Civic Leadership Council, New Voters Project, and Politics, Society and Law.

Since September, the alliance has registered about 2,100 people, including helping out-of-state students acquire absentee ballots.

"People think their vote doesn't count or doesn't matter. One vote can count, especially in Ohio," said Beth Morrison, another co-coordinator for OSU Votes.

Morrison and Evans have planned various election-related activities, including a mock debate between the College Democrats and Republicans on Thursday night and a Ben and Jerry's ice cream giveaway on Election Day. The group also hosted CNN's Election Bus this week.

"We're trying to make the voting process more fun just by making it more relatable for students," Morrison said. "We're trying to get it so that we're voting at least as much as older people."

Historically, the number of young voters has been relatively small, though it has been growing. Participation among 18- to 24-year-olds rose from 36 percent in 2000 to 47 percent in 2004, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Thanks to this year's media blitz -- not to mention the large number of organizations canvassing campuses to register voters -- many students say they are realizing the significance of their voice in this election.

"A guy circled around me and came back because he said this is too important and wanted to make sure he was registered," Morrison said. "McCain and Obama are so close in the polls, they're seeing young people as an untapped resource."

Chris Cardona, an OSU Votes member, said young people have the power to mold government just by casting a vote.

"It does seem like we could be a huge sway in the election," he said. "We could make a huge difference and change everything. It's really exciting stuff."