Students Reflect on Election Season

By Laura Anderson, Gunnison Country Times (November 8, 2012) —

Students at Western State Colorado University did not escape political fever this election season.

Multiple debates were hosted on campus and a dedicated few even volunteered for campaigns. And to commemorate the culmination, the campus Politics Club hosted their quadrennial presidential election party, replete with finger food, large screen projection of coverage and red, white and blue balloons.

One student was particularly excited to watch the coverage unfold. Senior political science major Chelsie Hoff believed she was perfectly positioned to get involved with the democratic process, so a few months ago, she signed up to work with the local Obama campaign.

"The way I see it, this is a really great time for me to be politically active," she said. "I can afford to, I have the time, so why not? It was an amazing learning experience."

This election was also Hoff's first voting experience.

"I was so excited. It was pretty awesome," she said about voting in her first presidential election.

Alex McLelland, also a Western student, said she felt more engaged in the local elections, particularly the county commissioner race, than the presidential. She volunteered with local commissioner campaigns and joined the campus Republican Party Club.

"I feel like I got really involved," she said of the election season. "I got to really talk to candidates. It's more exciting to vote locally."

McLelland said the on-campus political debates helped her make her decision. Hoff agreed.

"I think they swayed a lot of votes," she said.

Maria Struble, assistant professor for politics and government and faculty advisor for the Politics Club, said she thought that actually seeing candidates in on-campus debates helped students make their decisions for local elections.

"Some students changed their minds," she said. "Appearances do matter. It's important to see the candidates, because it's not about their party."

Students also made an attempt to educate themselves about the issues and candidates for which they would be voting.

"It involved a lot more thought, more contemplation, than I thought it would," said freshman and first-time voter Scott Bird. "You figure you know it all, but you definitely have to do some research."

But despite his careful research, Bird was surprised by the number and variety of races to be decided. Hoff agreed.

She said her main goal during her campaign work was to get people to vote, regardless of their political affiliations.

"If they don't start early then they'll become a trend because what they do when they're younger, they'll continue to do when they're older," she explained.

Hoff said she knocked on doors in the dorms on Tuesday afternoon to remind students to vote and was encouraged by the number of students who already had.

"I wish there was some way we could track the student turn out," she opined. "I think we had a really great turn out. About 80 percent of the kids I talked to had their 'I voted' stickers."

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - 9:15am