ASUU promotes student voting, convention watch parties

By Michael McFall, Staff Writer

Starting on Oct. 21, Utah residents will able to cast their vote on the U campus for the presidential election before Election Day. A room in the Union will be reserved for early voting booths.

The former Associated Students of the U’s government relations director Jordan Breighner, along with his predecessor Marko Mijic and ASUU President Patrick Reimherr, coordinated the early voting.

A lack of convenient voting stations has been an obstacle for larger student turnout in the past, said Andrew Jensen, the current director of the ASUU government relations board. Brieghner and Mijic spent months talking with the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office and the U to get the voting stations on campus.

“Students will vote if they are given the opportunity,” Jensen said.
Jensen will oversee the early voting on campus. Originally, the responsibility was meant for Breighner, who left the U to work on Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Breighner declined to comment about his involvement with the campaign.

Anyone in the state will be able to vote, even without a Utah address. ASUU is also pushing a student voting registration drive with booths and banners to encourage and facilitate involvement in the electoral process.

The drive will last until Oct. 6, the mail-in deadline for voter registration.
College students are facing the “big, real hurdles in life,” such as high tuition and health care, Mijic said. He suggested that students talk about the issues and get involved in the policies and processes that control them, noting that ASUU is organizing events to give them an opportunity to do just that.

In order to snowball voter education and enthusiasm for the election season, ASUU has organized parties with the Hinckley Institute Student Alliance to watch Obama and Sen. John McCain give their nomination speeches from their respective party conventions. The Hinckley Institute’s Democratic National Convention party is Thursday, Aug. 28, and McCain’s is a week later on Sept. 4. The convention parties will be held in the Hinckley Caucus Room at 7 p.m. Free pizza will be served.

The institute has put on similar viewing parties in the past, such as when Mitt Romney gave a speech about his LDS faith, and on Super Tuesday in February. Anywhere from 50 to 100 students and faculty attend the parties, said Amanda Mecham, a senior political science major who directs the ASUU Presenter’s Office. She said she’s hopeful that more students will attend the upcoming convention parties since the election season has uniquely drawn the attention of so many young voters.

“Obama has a way of rallying college age hype…and students have been fed up with Iraq and the economy,” Mecham said.

ASUU has also put together an event to educate students about researching their political candidates. Peter Kraus, a Marriott Library political science librarian, will give a lecture on Oct. 8 at noon about how to research candidates’ positions on political issues and understand their professional histories to become an educated voter.

Jensen said he hopes ASUU can organize the same voting stations and voter registration drives in 2011 for the mid-term elections, and continues to make a habit of encouraging students to cast their ballots.

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