EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester WTVR.com has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Students from the project reported the following story.
RICHMOND, Va. – With the election just around the corner, many college students are still unaware of gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli and the policies they stand for. Because it is not a presidential election year, many college students are not focused on politics this fall, according to election volunteers who are trying to engage them.
“You meet a lot of people who have never been registered to vote or know anything about the political process,” said VCU political science major Andrew Kenny, who has been out on campus to register student voters. “It’s really fun to convince them that it does count and it’s how democracy works.”
Kenny is one of many volunteers swarming over Virginia campuses right now to educate his peers. He said he tries to encourage students to vote by bringing up political issues in conversations that might be important to them.
“I think it’s really important to have a movement that gets to students,” Kenny said. “We’re not trying to sell anybody something, and we’re just trying to be polite.”
At VCU, student volunteers can now be found all over campus. One of them is journalism major Emily Satchell, who manages the university-wide “VCU votes” campaign. She and her fellow campaign volunteers helped students to register earlier this month and provide them with information on all of the major candidates and their standpoints on the issues in this election.
“Because it’s not a presidential election and it’s a statewide election, a lot of people downplay it and think that it is not as big of a deal,” said Satchell. “It is actually increasingly important, especially as students, because the governor has a lot of say in the funding for higher education.”
Satchell and other volunteers are staffing a table almost every day in the University Student Commons to increase attention and awareness about the election. The table includes flyers with candidate’s standpoints on topics like teachers’ salaries, gay marriage and health care. They also pass out T-shirts, candies, buttons and sunglasses — whatever makes their peers stop for a few minutes and gets their attention.
Upon seeing the table, VCU Sophomore Danielle Gaines stopped by on a recent day for a talk with Satchell.
“I am always telling people how important it is to vote for your governor and vote for your congressman and all those things,” she said. “ I decided that I should practice what I preach.”
Despite many students apathy, the volunteers said that they will continue to educate students about the political process and how it will impact their lives up until election day.
Matt Rogers, president of the VCU chapter of Young Democrats, said he got involved in volunteering, because he did not know what he wanted to do. He realized certain issues stood out to him, particularly the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.
“I decided I wanted to get an internship on the campaign for senate last year. After that, I was really interested in the presidential race, because it affects every part of your life,” Rogers said. “There’s a lot of things you decide for yourself, but without knowing it, policy affects your life every day. It was something I could not ignore.”
This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between WTVR.com and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.