Posted October 9, 2012 Atlanta, GA
This story is the second in a series about students preparing for the November presidential election. The Georgia voter registration deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 9. To find out where you’re registered, or to request an absentee ballot, visit sos.ga.gov/elections.
While many students have been spending fall weekends at Bobby Dodd Stadium or the library, Maddie Cook and Vijai Narayanan have been spending their last semesters at Tech at an Obama for America field office in Jacksonville, Fla., in their efforts to get the 44th U.S. president elected for a second term.
Neither had campaigning experience, but after working as a White House information technology intern last fall for presidential correspondence – which included the privilege of reading much of the president’s mail – Cook, a fifth-year international affairs and Spanish major, returned to Tech inspired. She was ready to motivate others to engage in the political process and even made her case in a March editorial for the Technique.
“Apathy on our campus isn’t appropriate when, in many cases, we are going to be implementing [government] policies,” Cook said. During the spring, she worked with Obama for America to start the campus campaign group, Jackets for Obama, and was a planning committee volunteer at the Democratic National Convention in September.
Narayanan, a fifth-year mechanical engineering major who became a U.S. citizen last year, feels voting and civic engagement is an act of civic duty and a way to give back as a citizen, especially for Tech students.
“Students in science and engineering tend to feel isolated from the political world, even though it has an effect on their work,” he said. “This election will likely affect your career in some way. Students need to recognize that, acknowledge it and become active.”
Georgia’s electoral votes are predicted to go to the Republican Party, but the Obama campaign sees Georgia as a support state for Florida, which has more electoral votes and a more volatile voting history. To garner votes and volunteers, targeting a strategic list of eligible voters, the campaign uses phone banking to make calls and talk with people about their voting decision. Another tactic is going door to door to talk with voters in person, or canvassing, which has also been statistically shown to drive votes.
Working for the campaign in Florida has enabled Cook and Narayanan to meet students from other universities and even campaign on their campuses, giving them a chance to compare Tech’s political climate to that of other universities.
“I was surprised to hear how many students said they were already registered, and how many were willing to register at their school address to be able to vote there,” Cook said of campaigning at the University of Florida. Narayanan noticed a leadership focus among political science students, but also attributed student awareness to Florida’s highly charged political climate.
Though Florida students may be voting in a more contested state, student votes count no matter the geography.
“Georgia Tech is so highly recognized on an international basis, and we should be able to be educated and speak out on the issues,” said Cook, who hopes to continue to garner volunteers and encourage students to vote. “Now’s the time to get involved. We still have about 30 days, and a lot can change.”
For students interested in the Democratic Party, Jackets for Obama will travel to Florida over fall break to continue campaign work with Break for Barack.
“After being involved in a campaign, I think everyone should do it at least once in their lifetime,” Narayanan said. “You get an unfiltered view of the political system, and you see the campaign’s strategies and how they view the electorate. It gives you tools to be a more informed voter.”