For many MSU students, political activism is not high on their lists of priorities. But for some, getting involved in election activities is a rush and a regular part of campus life. These students must motivate an often apathetic student body to register to vote and exercise their rights. Two major groups devoted to political activism on campus are the MSU Democrats and MSU College Republicans, and their activism efforts have been in high gear in preparation for the Nov. 7 gubernatorial election.
The race for governor has been highly advertised in the media, and that attention has been transferred to MSU – it is hard not to notice this election race. As students who will be graduating in the next four years, this election has a big impact on our futures. The foremost issue facing MSU graduates is job placement, and MSU alumnus Michael Plato knows all too well what it’s like to be displaced after graduation.
“I\’m one of the statistics: I went to a Michigan university and had to leave the state to find a job,\” the political science and marketing graduate said. \”Michigan can\’t afford to lose its college graduates and expect to be attractive to businesses. Everyone in college now will graduate under Michigan\’s next governor. The job search may seem like a long way off, especially for freshmen, but the election this November will decide what economy they graduate into.”
As the president of MSU Democrats, Karissa Chabot is already aware of this bleak scenario. She has been preparing for Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s re-election campaign since last spring, and voter registration is at the top of her agenda.
“The Dems have been knocking doors all over campus to register new voters and will continue to do so up until the voter registration deadline on Oct. 10,” Chabot, a political theory and constitutional democracy senior, said. “We\’ve registered over 500 new voters already and have set a goal of registering 2,000.”
Working tirelessly to spread the word about Granholm’s campaign, the MSU Dems have been passing out campaign literature, making phone calls and knocking on thousands of doors. In cooperation with the Coordinated Campaign, they have been reaching voters off-campus by making calls seven days a week.
Granholm, a Harvard grad, was elected in November 2002 as the first woman to serve in Michigan’s office. According to the campaign Web site, Granholm has cut $4 billion from the budget deficit during her term as governor, and she lifted the unemployment rank from 50th to 49th in the nation. One of her recent proposals is to allot $4,000 to each Michigan student who completes two years of higher education, the first of its kind in the nation.
\”I support Granholm because she is always fighting for everyday citizens and is not about making money for millionaires and special interests groups,\” said Emily Mixter, the MSU Democrats secretary and a political science junior. \”She is persistant about taking care of the people who don\’t have high powered lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists to protect their interests.\”
[emily]Granholm’s top priorities are increasing Michigan’s economy and maintaining the state’s high quality of life. She has also attempted to bring new business and technology to unemployed Michigan workers through her travels. In July 2005, Granholm spent five days with MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon in Japan at a conference to bring new companies and jobs to Michigan. As a result, Granholm created 1,032 new jobs and brought $245 million in investments.
Mixter has been busy helping with the “dorm storm” efforts to identify, educate and register potential voters. “The most important day is Election Day, when we go around to all the dorms as many times as we can to get students to the polls,” Mixter said.
With Nov. 7 fast approaching, the MSU Democrats have scheduled a variety of events to promote Granholm. This month, the group will host three debate-watching parties, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 2, 10 and 16. In addition, group members will distribute information regarding each candidate and will hopefully invite Granholm herself to a re-election rally on campus. Although her availability for the rally is unsure at this time, their Web site, www.msudemocrats.org, will include more information.
Because the MSU Democrats have the aspect of incumbency on their side, getting the attention of voters may be a slightly less daunting task than the one faced by the opposing student group. Despite this, the MSU College Republicans are approaching the election, and the duty of getting support, with full force.
“Being involved in the College Republicans has been the best part of my college career at MSU,” said Anna Marie Cooper, a hospitality business senior and MSU College Republicans’ first vice chair. “And the best part of College Republicans is election season.”
The Republican challenger, Dick DeVos, is the son of well-known Republican Richard DeVos and the former President of Alticor, Inc. With no formal post-secondary education, DeVos brings work and leadership experience from Alticor Inc. According to the campaign Web site, DeVos’s campaign is concentrated on a pledge to turn Michigan around. One of his campaign objectives, the TurnAround Plan, will create new jobs and diversify Michigan’s work force. DeVos also has a high regard for selling Michigan-made products, and with his background in international business, he is seeking to sell these products globally.
The 2006 gubernatorial election is especially significant because of the negative perceptions held by many about the current state of Michigan’s economy. A major focus for each candidate has been the promise to keep jobs in Michigan and, in turn, motivate recent college graduates to remain in the state. [freshman] MSU College Republicans treasurer Dennis Bentley said the results of the election could ultimately affect the moving decisions of college grads. “The lagging economy that we find ourselves in couldn\’t come at a worse time for people my age – a time when we will all soon be graduating and looking to start a career,” Bentley, a political science junior, said. “This is not just your average election to decide who will sit in the Governor’s seat for the next four years. This year’s gubernatorial election could very well possibly make the difference in whether or not we, as college students, start our careers here at home, or if we will be forced to leave for opportunities outside the state.”
To bring the influence of the Republican challenger closer to MSU students, the College Republicans hosted DeVos on campus for the MSU v. Notre Dame football game on Sept 23. DeVos and his wife, Betsy, went tent-to-tent clad in Spartan gear, talking to potential voters about Michigan’s economy and what new leadership could bring to Michigan.
“We had one of the best receptions from any crowd that I have ever seen,\” Bentley said. \”I\’m very excited about the energy and enthusiasm I see coming out of both the volunteers for DeVos, as well as the people who will be voting for him. I think Michigan is ready for change.”
Both Democratic and Republican activists have stumbled into a huge sector of untapped voting power for this gubernatorial race: the fresh-faced 18-year-old students. While many of them probably did not rush out and register to vote right away, the opportunities to do so now have been substantial. On this politically-charged campus, the freshmen can vote in their first major election, and each side is clambering for their support. However, campus groups want motivated and educated voters, not people running to the polls filled with media influence and lack of information about the candidates and their values.
[devossigns] “One of my biggest pet peeves is the uneducated voter,” history senior and MSU Republicans chairman Jeff Wiggins said. “Read up on Granholm and DeVos and decided for yourself who you would pick. Use your own logic, go to political meetings and events on campus. Attend debates, visit the candidates\’ Web sites and decide for yourself who is better for Michigan.”
Taking the time to vote on Nov. 7 puts direct power into the student body. As soon-to-be graduates, this is the opportunity influence if entry-level job opportunties require out-of-state flights or cruises down the highway.
“MSU students will be in the job market within the next two to four years,” Wiggins said. “Whether they can stay in Michigan will depend on what kind of economy we have. If we don\’t make a change, look forward to packing your bags, kids.”
General business administration and pre-law freshman Andrew Stanecki is greatly anticipating Nov. 7, although the first time at the polls can be intimidating. “I definitely plan on voting because even though I\’m new at this, I still want to be involved and have knowledge about who\’s in charge,” Stanecki said. “It\’s important to vote because every vote does matter, and if you don\’t start voting right away, I feel like people will just continue to abstain from doing so forever. If not now, then when?”
First-time voter and no preference freshman Sheila Cope has already been reading up on the candidates and understands the impact of her vote. “Students should care because even if they plan on leaving Michigan, most of their families will still live here.”
[switz1]David Switzer, who is affiliated with the Independent Party, also knows the importance of this election race. “A lot of my friends say that this election is not important and they\’ll just wait and vote for president, but this is exactly the attitude we need to avoid,” said Switzer, a political theory and constitutional democracy and history freshman. “Voting is the most important say that American citizens have in their democracy, so they need to take advantage of this right in order to keep the democracy alive. This election is especially important because all the positions are popularly elected, so the people actually have a direct say in who takes over their government. College students are the future of this country, and if they don\’t start to vote now, they never will.”
As Mixter said, \”You don\’t need a PhD in political science to vote; go with your gut instinct about who is going to do the best job and represent you the best.\”
Students who are not registered to vote in East Lansing or who cannot make it to the polls can obtain an absentee voter ballot. To acquire an absentee ballot, send a signed letter containing the online application form to your local clerk’s office. A list of city or township clerk addresses is available at www.michigan.gov/vote.
MSU’s college Democrats and Republicans take great interest in our federal, state and local leadership. And so should you – as the youth of America, this is our opportunity to step up and influence our own future. What do you want for Michigan? Vote on Nov. 7, and avoid gambling with the future.
Don’t forget to register to vote in the Nov.7 election: the last day to do so is Oct. 10. To register online, please visit www.youvote.msu.edu.
For more information on either gubernatorial candidate, please visit their respective Web sites: www.granholmforgov.com and www.devosforgovernor.com.