U.S. citizens are granted the right to vote at 18, but not every person exercises that right. Though American college campuses are a breeding ground for activism, the interest does not always translate to high numbers at the polls. VOA's Paige Kollock takes a closer look at politics on college campuses.
CHRIS BROOKS, COLLEGE REPUBLICAN:
"(Checks watch) It's a couple minutes before 6AM in the morning, and we're just all meeting together, getting on the bus, to take a five hour hike up to New Jersey, where we're going to go campaign for Doug Forrester."
It is the Saturday before November's Election and Chris Brooks and the College Republicans at George Washington University in Washington D.C., are on the campaign trail."
CHRIS BROOKS, COLLEGE REPUBLICAN:
"The big part of College Republicans across the country is grass-roots campaigning. It's something we love to do."
Three days later, their political rivals, the College Democrats, are also out early getting people to vote.
((nat sound of Ezra screaming, "It's Election Day꿲ake sure to come out and vote. Tell your mom to vote'))
College Democrats at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia stood outside polling places for 12 hours on Election Day. Many missed classes, but they didn't seem to mind. Some students were doing more than encouraging voters. Jared Katseff ran for office, to be an 'Inspector of Elections.'
"I was the first to vote today and I asked if I could have a copy of the official ballot and they said sure and I'm very proud because that's my name right there꿌nspector of Elections."
Katseff won, which means that on Election Day next year, he will help manage his local polling station and check voters for identification.
Not every college student is as crazy about politics as Jared Katseff, but as a group, they seem to be more politically active than most others their age. And they are a significant group - approximately 6.3 percent of the U.S. population.
There are two major political parties in the U.S., and they organize much of the campus political activity.
At the University of Pennsylvania, Jess Smythe has worked hard to build up the Democratic Party organization.
"I love the way politics challenges you to look at the world in a new way and I think that's one of the biggest things I've gained from being on the Dems board. The variety of experiences and the way people have formulated arguments."
The National College Republicans have 200,000 members on 1,500 campuses nationwide. They think politics on campus are important enough to have a paid chairman. Paul Gourley, the current chairman, is a senior at The University of South Dakota, and has an office in Washington D.C., earning $75,000 a year.
"I'm 23 yrs old and I have an opportunity to be the voice of an entire generation. I think, if I had it to do again, I think I would chose it over sitting on the couch playing video games (laughs)."
Not all students are interested in party politics, some have special causes.
"I really care about taxes and a woman's right to choose and the death penalty and gun control is really important..."
JULIE SXU, BIOCHEM MAJOR:
"Stem cells, abortion, those kinds of things...gay rights."
"Education is probably my biggest thing."
And some political activists just want to get more people involved in
the process. As chairman of the George Mason University chapter of a non-partisan group, called the 'New Voters Project', Karl Bach helps register young voters, encouraging them to get involved.
"Our demographic, 18-24 year olds, historically we haven't voted, and politicians don't place our concerns in their platforms."
Democratic Party supporter Dan de Rosa says students, like most people, are most interested in issues that hit close to home.
DAN DE ROSA, PENN DEMOCRATS:
"Students get involved when something directly affects them, like student loans, student aid to go to college, ways to pay for higher education, just improving education in general."
There was in increase in votes in the 18-24 group in 2004, when seventy-seven percent of college students cast a vote for president. Thanks partly to Democratic Party presidential hopeful Howard Dean. He attracted young voters with his anti-establishment views, and a campaign that used new technology to raise money and spread the message. More than 75 percent of Dean's campaign contributions came from people younger than 30, earning them the nickname "Deaniacs."
Some of the political excitement of the 2004 campaign may have been a campus fad. Nonetheless, there are a fair number of young people who never lose their taste for politics.
"It's great when I'll walk into my senator's office and it's people who I have actually recruited into this organization, that have then graduated, and are working in all levels, from the White House to the State House and even in my home state of South Dakota."
For many U.S. college students, politics is more than academic.
Paige Kollock - VOA News.