Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is receiving a boost from a group of students that are actively working to get out the progressive vote on campus.
Because the deadline to register to vote has passed, Temple Votes! has been organizing an effort to educate voters they see as progressive and make sure they get to the polls on election day.
Before the Oct. 4 deadline passed, the group worked as an unbiased entity, registering voters from both parties. But now that the date has passed, Undergraduate Coordinator of Temple Votes! Kim Teplitzky said they’ve gone into get-out-the-vote mode.
“We did turn, I don’t want to say partisan, I emphasize we get out the progressive vote,” said Teplitzky. “What that means is we are getting out students who are voting for Kerry, but I don’t want us to be limited to the Democrat’s platform.”
This week, Temple Votes! will be storming the dorms, knocking on doors and asking students if they are registered to vote and who they plan to vote for. If the students say that they are registered and plan to vote for Kerry, they will receive informational material about the candidates and their polling place.
“We not only want students to get out and vote, but we want them to be educated about the issues,” said Teplitzky.
When asked why they don’t try to educate Bush voters too, Teplitzky explained: “We don’t have the capacity to try to convince people whose minds are already made up, nor the capacity to make sure they vote, nor is it in our best interests as students [to do so].”
Teplitzky said one of the most important jobs Temple Votes! has is making sure the students that they want to vote know where the polls are. She pointed out that voters living on Temple’s campus could be assigned to one of six different polling places.
“It’s a huge reason many students don’t vote – simply because they don’t know where their polling place is,” Teplitzky said.
Temple Votes! will compile a list of the students they want to make sure get to the polls on Election Day. During late afternoon on Nov. 2, that list will be compared with the lists showing who has already voted at polling places; if any of the students on Temple Votes!’ list haven’t shown up to vote yet, they can expect a knock on their door from their Temple Votes! dorm captain reminding them to make it to the polls before they close at 8 p.m.
On Election Day, Temple Votes! will also be busy at tables set up around campus that direct students that live both on and off campus to their polling places. They will also be phone banking, reminding students on their list to vote, and sending text messages alerting students of shuttles that will be leaving campus soon, and handing out “I voted” stickers to students that made it to the polls.
Cynthia Baughman, a professor of Film and Arts, helped start Temple Votes! last spring.
“I started registering voters in a small way in March 2004 with tables in the lobby of Annenberg & SAC, and volunteers from Film and Media Arts, my department,” said Baughman. “Then word started to spread, and I rented a booth at Spring Fling, and had voter registration forms and a volunteer sign-up sheet, and by May we had a group of about 15 volunteers, students, faculty, staff, and community members, who met throughout the summer. Sometime over the summer we decided to call ourselves Temple Votes!”
Graduate sociology student Jen Murphy took leadership of the group in May, and organized a very successful registration drive at all the new student orientations in Mitten Hall over the summer, “which registered about 800 new students and gave info on voting options to many more,” said Baughman.
Baughman said that Temple Votes! has turned in 2,500 voter registration cards. They also distributed another 1,900 to faculty members, but don’t know how many of those were actually turned in.
Temple Votes! has been holding a film series all semester, which will continue with a screening of The War Room on Wednesday night in the atrium of Annenberg Hall. The series will convene with a Scare Out the Vote Party on Friday, Oct. 29. The group also plans to hold a 21-and-over after party at Tiki Bob’s at 3rd and Spring Garden later that night.
Teplitzky said that fun events are imperative to effectively organizing students.
“Youth know how to organize youth. We understand that students want to have fun… we’re not going to reach them by being hard-core serious all the time,” said Teplitzky. “We have to meet them where they’re at.”
Lisa Litzinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.