As the primary elections went into full swing Feb. 5, so did the sidewalk chalk and posters promoting the candidates.

But all of that chalk had to come from somewhere, and many of the people behind the scenes of political campaigns are students.

Molly McFarland and Conner Johnston are just a few who joined the Students for Barack Obama campaign as chapter coordinator and get-out-the-vote coordinator, respectively.

“Our direct area went (for) Obama because of our direct efforts,” industrial engineering junior Johnston said. “I feel like we made an immense impact.”

That impact didn’t come without some hard work, though. The Students for Barack Obama campaign began during the summer of 2006 on Facebook.com and has been opening chapters at universities across the nation since then, according to its Web site.

McFarland, a modern languages and literature sophomore, became involved with the Cal Poly chapter about five months ago after a man talked about the campaign at Linnaea’s Cafe on Garden Street in San Luis Obispo.

“I turned off my iPod and started eavesdropping,” McFarland said. “It was kind of a serendipitous meeting.”

Since October, the grassroots effort has garnered support for Obama on campus by having students sign non-binding pledge cards that they will vote for him, registering new voters, and reminding students to vote on Election Day.

“One of the biggest reasons students don’t vote is because they’re not registered,” McFarland said.

The week before the California primary campaign, volunteers plastered campus with chalk, signs and banners.

Obama won in San Luis Obispo county with 48.6 percent of the votes for the democratic presidential primary, but lost in California to Hillary Clinton, who garnered 52 percent of the votes overall, according to the California Secretary of State’s Web site.

John McCain won the republican presidential primary in San Luis Obispo county with 39.8 percent, and for the state with 42 percent of the vote, the Web site said. Mitt Romney followed with 34.1 percent of the overall vote.

“SLO county came down to 500 votes (for Obama) and we got 500 people to pledge, and I’m sure more than that voted,” Johnston said. “Cal Poly took SLO county for Obama. I want the Cal Poly students to know that they did make a difference.”

The polling location in the University Union which serves the students who are registered on campus voted 82.35 percent for Obama, according to the county Recorder’s office.

More than 50 students volunteered with the Obama campaign and coordinators like McFarland volunteered up to five hours a day during the final weeks before the primaries.

“I wish I could take the quarter off and just work for the campaign,” McFarland said. “I’m a volunteer and I’m a student. It was a struggle and I’m still trying to catch up, but it was well worth it.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, Hans Poschman, a public policy graduate student with a political science degree from Cal Poly, is the executive director for the Republican party in San Luis Obispo county.

Although the party didn’t promote a specific candidate during the primaries, Poschman was still busy keeping the office open every day, organizing volunteer activities and registering voters. He also speaks routinely to groups to tell them what’s going on with the party.

“I try to provide a presence in the community whenever necessary,” Poschman said. “It’s a lot of work. There’s constantly something to do and you have to balance that with school.”

Most professors are understanding of the time commitment for the campaign, Johnston said.

“I’ve made announcements in my classes and a couple of teachers were proud of me since I was involved in the politics,” he said. “A lot of teachers are excited because they can’t get involved themselves.”

As the presidential election in November and the local elections in June draw nearer, the students involved in campaigns will become even more involved.

But that’s the way they like it.

“It’s a great chance to have a say on what affects this nation,” Poschman said.

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