As political campaign ads plaster TV screens across the nation, students at the University of South Dakota are focusing on word of mouth to “get out the vote” this coming election cycle.
USD’s College Democrats and Republicans are tabling in the Muenster University Center weekly to encourage students to register, and offering polling information for those new to Vermillion.
Aside from registering eligible voters, student-ran political groups are participating in grass root movements on a local and state.
The College Democrats, led by President Joyce Trudeau, are offering students the chance to have their picture taken with a cardboard cutout of President Barack Obama in the MUC during regular tabling in the MUC. The group has also attended parades with District 17 candidates.
Later in the semester in an attempt to increase voter turnout, College Democrats will be creating a phone bank to reach voters at home.
“We don’t expect the state to turn blue,” said USD College Democrats president Joyce Trudeau. “We hope for District 17 to sweep for the democratic party.”
USD College Republicans copresident Colin Michaels said registering voters is an important part of what the group does.
“It is important for students to be involved in the process,” Michaels said. “We want an informed public.
The group is also helping with local and state campaigns. Michaels said USD College Republicans are going door to door, but not necessarily for Romney.
The USD College Libertarians have hosted vice president candidate Judge Jim Gray along with a table filled with information encouraging students to vote Libertarian.
“Voter registration is not part of the current plan,” USD College Libertarian president Brad Omland said.
Even as student groups attempt to encourage their peers to participate in this year’s election, a number of students are not as eager to get involved in a state election with only one electoral vote.
“There isn’t much enthusiasm,” said junior Josh Hanscom, who plans on voting. “South Dakota is not a political hotspot.”
Hanscom said the issues most important to him in this election are health care, the role of government and the economy.
First year Dee Rife said she does not feel as if USD is embracing the atmosphere of an election year.
“I haven’t seen any signs on campus,” said Rife. “We are probably doing about the same as other small colleges.”
Rife, who is still undecided, said that a focus on education is an important issue to her.
“I’m not going to vote for someone just because of how he looks,” she said.
Although student political groups like the USD College Democrats have held events regarding the election, first year Jeni Zeller said she would not attend a political event unless Obama was present, but she still plans on voting using an absentee ballot.
“If you don’t start voting when you’re young, you’re never going to get the hang of it,” said Zeller.
Zeller, like Rife, said she does not feel as if the student body at USD has embraced the election.
“There’s not much of a political climate,” she said.