Purdue Alumnus FA20 web - Flipbook - Page 46
got students and young people to the ballot box, says
McCann. Another key factor was that students actually
took the initiative to organize on campus.
“Having a candidate in the limelight matters,” McCann
comments. “But at the end of the day, student groups matter, too. Students for Obama played a big part in mobilizing
the student vote, and a big part of that is networking in the
student body, creating events, and generating a buzz.”
Student Groups Galvanizing
the Boilermaker Vote
PURDUE’S STUDENT VOTE
Traditionally, Purdue’s campus has been less involved in elections
than other Big Ten schools. But with students getting involved in
local politics after West Lafayette annexed Purdue’s campus, an
uptick in participation in 2018, and the University’s commitment
to on-campus learning this fall, that could be about to change.
The year 2008 was a big year in Indiana politics. It was
the first (and remains the only) time Indiana voted for a
Democrat in the presidential election since 1964. That year,
Lyndon Johnson lost a mere handful of southern states en
route to a crushing coast-to-coast victory.
“2008 was the high point of student engagement,” says
James McCann, professor of political science. “That was due
to a lot of investment by the Obama campaign, and younger
voters — students — played a big role in that.”
It wasn’t the strength of Obama’s messaging alone that
44 PUR D U E A LUMNUS
Voting is more than the few minutes it takes to fill out
your ballot on election day.
“When you look at turnout drivers, a lot of it has to do
with peer-to-peer engagement,” says McCann.
The leadership of Purdue College Republicans sees it
much the same way.
“Purdue, like many college campuses, has a conservative minority,” says the student organization’s vice president, Joshua Kolton, a senior double majoring in aviation
management and political science. “We strive to provide
students with multiple viewpoints and discussion topics,
employing critical thinking to create a positive discussion.”
College Republicans President Tyler Swiezy, a senior
majoring in business administration, emphasizes the organization’s role in motivating student voter turnout. “College
students are generally politically disengaged, so we may be
a student’s first interaction with the Republican Party. We
have to make a good first impression. From there, it’s about
cultivating a relationship with the student body that makes
it known what we stand for — but we have to get them in
the door first.”
Getting students in the door is going to look different
this election cycle than any before. This is a space where
the Purdue College Democrats have already been active,
engaging the student body through social media, a blog on
current events, and a group chat.
“The more we talk about it, the more people tend to lean
toward connecting with elections,” says Daniel Farrell, president of the College Democrats. “Mobilizing volunteers is
my biggest goal, and with November coming, it has never
been more important for us to do that.”
Both groups got a serious boost from University President Mitch Daniels. On July 10, Daniels announced that
Purdue is joining with other universities from across the
nation in committing to full voter registration among eligible students.
“We are happy to see President Daniels’s commitment to
civic engagement and support it wholeheartedly,” shares
Swiezy. “We want every student to recognize their stake in
our republic and to take their responsibilities as citizens
of this great country seriously. Further, at a time when
Americans’ civic knowledge is lackluster, we support any
attempt to instill the civic values that are our great inheritance as Americans.”