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Students’ interest in politics rises

February 7, 2008

An estimated 90 people showed up to “Pizza and Obama” Jan. 31 to show support for Presidential candidate Barack Obama and encourage students to vote in the upcoming primaries. The event, sponsored by the Black Student Union, began with pizza for all and proceeded with a presentation outlining Obama and his campaign.

Simeon Talley, a representative from Obama’s Twin Cities headquarters, spoke with students about the importance of voting.

“We recognize that things have to change,” he said. He focused on Wisconsin and Minnesota, emphasizing their importance in the election race. Currently there is no clear front-runner in either state.

Ted Cannady, Tom Friant and Nikki Shonoiki, coordinators of the event, shared their ideas about why Obama deserves the vote.

“I feel like my opinions and views matter, and that I can be a part of history,” Cannady said.Cannady told students that before this election he had not been interested in politics.

The event not only informed students about Obama and his campaign, but also worked to inspire students to vote whether they wanted to vote for Obama or another candidate. Voter registration took place on campus Jan. 28 to Jan. 30 in the UC and in the residence halls.

In just those three days, more than 500 students took advantage of the opportunity to register, Friant reported.

“Young folks are turning out in ways we’ve never seen before,” Talley said.

Those numbers are encouraging, when trends seemed to be indicating declining voter turnouts. In February of 2004, only 1,690 of roughly 14,000 River Falls residents voted in the primaries, compared to 8,114 in the November election that same year.

The Legislative Affairs Committee of the Student Senate has been working in conjunction with River Falls Votes project to encourage students to vote in local, state and national elections.

Their efforts are paying off. According to a recent news release, record numbers of students voted in the 2004 and 2006 elections. Considering the numbers recorded at pre-poll registration, participation for the upcoming November polls promises to impress.

The “Obama for America” campaign came to the Target Center in Minneapolis on Saturday. Tickets for the rally were given away to the public, but had to be reserved online and sold out within 15 hours of becoming available.

Those students who attended the “Pizza and Obama” event were given complimentary tickets to attend the rally.

Attendees waited hours in the cold to see Obama, the majority of them fitting into a much younger demographic than political rallies normally attract. College students brought a new level of enthusiasm to the campaign.

“I think this campaign is about young people to. Young people care about change,” Talley said.

His sentiment is reflected in students’ reactions to Obama.

“Barack is the most promising candidate today,” Shonoiki said.