On a normal Tuesday, Cal Poly students can be found going to class, doing homework and maybe hitting up the gym. But on Feb. 5, students helped decide the future of our country.
All day long, the line of students waiting to cast a ballot in California’s presidential primary snaked around the University Union, the only polling place on campus.
“The amount of student voters this election has really been extraordinarily high. There’s absolutely more than usual,” poll worker Rick Tibben said.
Student voters have strong opinions about why they are voting.
“We’re young, and this election is going to affect us for a long time, so we need to have a say in the outcome,” journalism freshman Julie Rudd said.
Industrial technology senior Justin Miller expressed skepticism about the voting process, but said he was voting nonetheless.
“I don’t think that my vote will make much of a difference, but I’m lucky enough to be able to, unlike people in some other countries,” he said.
Historically, candidates have had a tough time convincing young people to vote. In the 2004 election, only 47 percent of citizens aged 18 to 24 voted, compared to 66 percent of citizens older than 25, according to civicvote.org. So why are young people turning out for this one?
Many people think that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is the reason.
“I’m tired of the Clinton dynasty and the Bush dynasty; we need someone new,” math lecturer Steven Slezak said.
Tony Silvestri, biology sophomore and member of Students for Barack Obama, isn’t surprised.
“Obama is really bringing out the youth vote. I’ve never seen kids our age caring about politics so much until him,” he said.
Students have been getting involved beyond just voting, however. Student-led clubs such as the Cal Poly College Republicans, the Cal Poly Democrats, and Students for Barack Obama (which is not chartered by the school) have all been working to get a big voter turnout.
“Students need to understand that the candidates and issues do affect them, and as responsible adults, they should vote,” said Christina Chiappe, Cal Poly College Republicans president and social sciences senior.
The Cal Poly Democrats and the Cal Poly College Republicans have both been registering students to vote and providing information on the different candidates and propositions.
“The primaries are really important because historically during the general election, people look at the candidates and don’t like them,” said Erin Mellon, vice president of the Cal Poly Democrats and business administration junior. “Well, they had a chance to vote for someone else in the primaries when there were more options.”
Each club threw a party for its members as well, to “celebrate the democratic process,” in the words of Erica Janoff, president of the Cal Poly Democrats and industrial engineering senior. Neither club has endorsed a candidate but said they will endorse their respective party’s nominee.