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Campus Politics '08
University of Oregon student Ella Barrett holds up a sign on campus as part of an effort to sign up new voters in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

A University of Oregon student takes part in an effort to sign up new voters in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008. (AP)

In the January snows of Iowa, young voters, college kids, played a huge part in the primary triumph of Barack Obama.

Now, with less than two weeks to final balloting, the youth vote looks like it may be huge again on Election Day. Young voters have been registered in record numbers across the country, in schools and military towns and auto-body shops.

But campuses have been the hotbed, on fire with the sense that whole lives may hinge on this election.

This hour, On Point: The campaign on campus. We’ll talk with campus newspaper editors about Obama, McCain, and the year of the youth vote.

You can join the conversation. How do you see the youth vote playing this year, on-campus or off? What’s at stake for the youngest American voters? And young voters, what matters most in this election to you? Tell us.


Joining us from Waterville, Maine, is Suzanne Merkelson, editor-in-chief of The Colby Echo, the student newspaper at Colby College.

From Dallas, Texas, and Southern Methodist University, we’re joined by Jordan Hofeditz, editor-in-chief of the SMU Daily Campus.

From Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is Allison Nichols, editor-in-chief of the Daily Tar Heel, at the University of North Carolina.

And from University Park, in central Pennsylvania, is Terry Casey, editor-in-chief of The Daily Collegian at Penn State University.

More links:

A new poll out today from Harvard’s Institute of Politics finds 18 to 24 year-old likely voters favor Barack Obama over John McCain 56 to 30. You can read the executive summary here.

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  • Blair


  • Rick

    What are colleges doing to educate their students about political maneuvers designed to obstruct their vote. College students constitute a perfect demographic for Republican voter obstruction tactics: they are transient, they are often residents of a different state or district where their college is located and they can be targeted localized geographic locations (the campus).

    My daughter started her freshman year and has registered to vote. She, along with the rest of her campus is overwhelmingly pro-Obama. I cannot imagine that the Karl Rove machine will not try to block their ability to vote.

  • Travis

    As a 27 year old, I would like to hear about whether the mythical “youth vote” will materialize this year. I’ve been disappointed about the perennial hype with lack of action in the past.

    Also, what about some of the voter caging by universities who threaten students registered at their dorm with losing their grants and financial aid?

  • Rick

    Can someone explain “voter caging”?

  • Parker

    I just moved from State College, PA to Connecticut. I am very disappointed to not be able to cast a vote for Obama. I lived in State College, PA for 5 years while my wife was a PhD graduate student.

    The biggest question that I would like to hear the Daily Collegian comment on is about how they are working on turnout. Many students live off-campus, and in different Townships than the Borough of State College. In the past, there has been confusion about students showing up at polling places on campus, and they live in an adjoining township and need to get to a different polling place. Sometimes, they don’t have access to easy transportation. Please comment on what efforts are addressing these issues among registered student voters. Thank you Tom.

  • Parker

    I should add cast a vote for Obama in PA and not CT. My vote in PA would have had much more of an impact than it will be in CT.

  • Tammy

    The race issue seems beyond the point to my (young) generation. I consider myself a Global; McCain (and Palin esp) seem/s to embody the worst of American insularity. My MBA class at Bentley is about 1/3 Indian and 1/3 other International (and 1/3 New England). I want a president in office who keeps the world view in context.

    Personally, I think Obama is the true American, roots here and roots oceans away.

  • Rex

    I believe student’s voting choices are determined by how their tuition is paid. I was fortunate enough to have my parents support my education. At the time I did not have to worry about money and I registered as a Republican. Now that I am working and on my own as a taxpayer, the issues matter and my views have changes considerably. I also think that college peer groups have an influence on those that have little to no knowledge of politics.

  • Rick

    Tom! Listen to the online comments! Some students are confused about where they are supposed to cast their votes. If they do the wrong thing, their votes will be disqualified. This would be a boon to Republicans, but an avoidable travesty for our democracy. Ask your guests what’s being done on campuses to educate students, many of whom are voting for the first time, of the logistics of casting their vote???

  • Clinton

    As a young voter (24 years old) I can say that along with a shared ideology with Senator Obama it’s a matter of who the face of America should be stepping into this new century.

    Look at any McCain rally and it’s a sea of white middle-age-to-old faces. Versus an Obama rally which is a sea of diversity.

    I believe supporting Senator Obama started off as a trendy thing during the primaries, but then as our economy soured and we start to see what it may be like for us as step out on our own we, young voters, are actually starting to weight the candidates policies. And, us, young voters, are finding that Obamas are more socially responsible and better overall for our collective futures-whether it be his energy policies, his tax policies, or his more diplomatic view of the world.

  • Janice

    Obama has done a great job marketing to the younger generation. Advertising on Facebook is a particularly interesting tactic I noticed recently. Whether they come out and vote is an entirely different issue.

  • AV

    This would be a boon to Republicans, but an avoidable travesty for our democracy.

    Ha ha ha, Rick. I like how you (thinly) disguise your partisan stance and unsuccessfully try to label Republicans as anti-democracy, or rather Democrats as a boon for democracy, when both of those parties have worked really hard as spoilers and messed up the system.

    By the way, just because the party is named “Democrat” it does not follow that they also support all aspects of democracy, or promote inclusive democracy. What really surprises me is that so many smart and intelligent people have this misconception that the Democratic Party is the best, and they are totally blind to its glaring faults.

  • Clinton

    AV-with Bushs antics at the polls the last 2 elections is it any wonder why young voters who have only participated in those two elections believe that?

  • Rick

    Rick here,

    AV, there’s no diguise, thin or otherwise. I’m as disgusted by the Democrats’ ineptitude as I am by the Republicans’ jack-booted thuggery. Long before they were appropriated by political parties, the terms “democracy” and “republic” were two of the founding concepts of our country and they have proven durable enough to survive Whigs, Tories, Know-Nothings, Independents, Socialists, Libertarians etc. Hopefully, the values to convey will survive Republicans and Democrats, too.

    The topic at hand is voter demographics (is that another secret pro-Democrat message too?) – in this case college student voters, who appear to predominantly favor Obama – and how it can lend itself to voting manipulation tactics currently favored by Republicans.

  • http://whatsnotso.blogs.com Tom Hagan

    Alas, no discussion of what the student editors make of the fact that both Obama and McCain oppose positions favored by clear majorities of the voters: on the war, the DOD budget, single payer health care, etc. etc.

    What about third party candidates? Do the editors hve any opinions about them?

    Are young people content with an electoral system owned by corporate interests, where a candidate opposed by them can get no hearing at all?

    Are they satisfied with “debates” controlled by the Republicrats and moderated by employees of corporatations with vested interests in the election?

    Do they approve of our democracy having “the best government money can buy?”

    Are they OK with having four healthcare lobbyists per member of Congress, spraying money and threats to have their way with both major parties?

  • Joe Biden

    That Suzanne woman has a beautiful voice!

  • AV

    Rick, here is your original comment:

    Some students are confused about where they are supposed to cast their votes. If they do the wrong thing, their votes will be disqualified. This would be a boon to Republicans, but an avoidable travesty for our democracy.”

    It’s pretty clear what your assumptions are regarding those “some students” you refer to, who are confused, and which way they’re going to vote and who in your opinion is going to benefit. I’d think that students vote for both candidates – Republicans and Democrats (and third-party too), so any disqualification of votes because of confusion would affect both major parties, and not just benefit the Republicans, as you stated.

    So I don’t think I misinterpreted your comment, unless I’m missing some context here.

    By the way, did this particular On Point program even mention Nader, Green Party, Libertarian Party; or as usual, it reinforced the duopoly of tweedledum and tweedledee by not including any voices that are not Republicans or Democrats? If it solely focused on Reps and Dems, then that is, as Rick says – and I agree with him, “an avoidable travesty for our democracy.” :)

  • Rick

    Rick again.,

    Unfortunately, AV, you did miss a very, very important context: as mentioned in the broadcast, a large majority of college students support Obama, by 2-to-1 I believe. That’s not a partisan stance, it’s just a fact. Therefore, negating these votes will inevitably have an asymmetric effect on votes that favors those who don’t want Obama in office.

    If you want to undermine this concern by accusing those who raise it of partisan bias, that’s your right, but it only serves to misdirect the discussion away from the far more significant, insidious problem that’s open for abuse by Republicans, Democrats or even Martians: namely exploiting demographic quirks to skew the electoral process asymmetric political gain. Over the past decade, it happens that the Republicans have demonstrated a particular mastery of this. Someday, maybe even the Democrats will get sufficiently organized to do the same thing and it’ll be just as wrong.

  • AV

    Rick, appreciate your response and that is exactly the purpose of this forum – to exchange views and discuss.

    No, I don’t want to undermine any concerns that bring to notice any obstruction of people’s (in this case, college students) right to vote. And yes, I do see your point that any confusion regarding where to vote will likely benefit McCain more than Obama.

    But the point that I mention is along the same lines as Tom Hagan mentioned above, as well as the last paragraph of my previous comment.

    While I agree that Obama will be less worse than McCain, we also need to start raising our expectations. If we continue to lower the bar and settle for “lesser evil,” things are going to get worse instead of improving. But maybe things do need to get a lot worse before they get better…

  • Rick

    AV, I’m glad we have things cleared up. I agree that we have to expect more out of our leaders and it is wonderful to see college students so excited about this election. It reminds me of when I was first eligible to vote decades ago, which also happens to be the last time college students showed such evident interest in the political process and ways to make it better. It also makes me feel very protective of their enthusiasm and wary of the potential cynical exploitation of their vulnerabilities. If tactics like voter caging are used successfully against this generation, then perhaps we do deserve what we will get and, as you say, things will need to get a lot worse before they can get better.

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