College campuses mobilize to get out the vote

By Anthony Bowe
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

New Era Colorado and Rock the Vote have focused registration efforts at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Colorado Springs, the Auraria campus in Denver, Colorado State University in Fort Collins and Pueblo and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

About 5,000 young people and students registered in Boulder and about 3,000 in Fort Collins, said Steve Fenberg, executive director of New Era Colorado.

Students who registered will receive a postcard reminding them to vote after mail-in ballots are distributed.

Student groups are also getting involved by volunteering for various campaigns and educating students on the issues.

In Greeley, UNC College Republicans vice president Kyle Anderson said the group is planning a debate with the College Democrats on campus where both groups will publicly represent their party’s candidates and several ballot initiatives.

“It’s a great way to get these people involved and educated with both sides of the issues being debated,” Anderson said.

At CU, College Democrats president Justin Kerver said a group of 10 to 20 members meet every Monday for pizza and phone banking for Congressman Jared Polis, Sen. Michael Bennet and gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper.

CU College Republicans president Gregory Carlson said several members of his group are volunteering for the party’s Victory Program in Boulder and Adams counties and canvassing on behalf of Republican candidates.

“Democrats have labor unions and it’s easy for labor unions to mobilize. Republicans don’t have that luxury but College Republicans help balance that out,” Ard said, adding that College Republican volunteerism with the party’s Victory Program is key for the party’s mobilization efforts.

Carlson said over 120 people attended the College Republicans’ first meeting on Sept. 1 to participate in a question and answer segment with Senate candidate Ken Buck. The day before Bennet was on campus for a press conference at the university’s student center, attracting between 24 and 50 supporters.

Carlson said the group is planning an October ‘meet and greet’ with Republican CU Regent Steve Bosley, who is running for reelection against Democratic challenger Melissa Hart.

In 2008 Michelle Obama attracted nearly 10,000 students and supporters on CU’s campus. Alyssa Bamonti, co-director of student government legislative affairs at CU, said interest has drastically decreased since then.

“When we’re registering students to vote some come up to me and don’t know there’s even an election coming up in November,” Bamonti said.

CU’s student government has partnered with New Era Colorado and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group in its voter registration efforts. Despite the low interest levels this year, Bamonti said registration remained consistent.

At CSU, students aren’t expecting movie stars to descend on Fort Collins like Desperate Housewives’ star Eva Longoria did in 2008. But excitement is still high, said Chase Eckerdt, director of community affairs within Colorado State University’s student government.

Eckerdt said that CSU students could represent nearly 10 percent of the electorate in Fort Collins if students get out the vote.

“What’s so cool about that is that the CSU vote, the young vote, is influencing results on a very real level,” Eckerdt said. “That’s why candidates are going to campaign on campus, they’re going to spend money here, they’re going to spend time here, because we are really influencing the ultimate decision in a crossroads part of the country.”

Eckerdt said enthusiasm is high as the election nears but the student body is more divisive than in 2008, when a large majority of students aligned with Democrats.

Youth voters in Fort Collins were the focal point in a piece by the New York Times on Sept. 2. With the CD 4 race between incumbent Democrat Betsy Markey and Republican challenger and state Representative Cory Gardner heating up, Eckerdt doesn’t expect the spotlight to dim anytime soon.

“We’re in a battleground district, in a battleground county, in a battleground state. It is so divided and can go anyway,” he said.

In Denver, several groups are trying to mobilize college and high school students against Amendment 62, appearing on the ballot this year as the “personhood” amendment. The measure would apply the term “person” in the state constitution to “every human being from the beginning of the biological development.”

On Sept. 18 Choice USA and Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) partnered to train about 30 college and high school students on how to defeat Amendment 62 and Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 by talking to friends and forming canvassing events, according to Lorena Garcia, COLOR policy director.

“We started off by talking about the power of the youth vote and heard anecdotes about organizing on campus,” said Margaux Frank, a senior at Colorado College, who will canvass against Amendment 62 near campus.

“Before it seemed completely daunting. I thought, ‘there’s no way I’m going to be able to do this,’” Frank said. “This was really instrumental in inspiring me and rejuvenating me instead of feeling overwhelmed by the task on hand.”

Anthony@coloradostatesman.com