Students join in the race to midterms

As the Burlington population expands with students, the population headed to the polls for this year’s midterm election expands as well. After the results of the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Aug. 24, Peter Shumlin won the race for the Democratic candidate for governor, according to the Times Argus.  With exception to the occurrence of a recount, he will face off against Republican candidate Brian Dubie. “The governor’s race is generally exciting, but with Governor Douglas not running for another term, this is going to be a long and challenging race,” Regional Field Director of Organizing for America, a grassroots organization working with the Vermont Democratic Party, Ariel Wengroff said. UVM professor of political science Anthony Gierzynski attributes the excitement surrounding this midterm election to not only the competition between gubernatorial candidates, but also the political involvement of young people bolstered by President Obama’s campaign in 2008. “You are the generation that Obama inspired to get involved in politics and vote in 2008, and once you get involved, it is easier to stay involved,” Gierzysnki said. Gierzynski worries, however, that the involvement of college-age voters spurred in the 2008 presidential election may wane.   “If they [college students] drop out [of political involvement] now, what they worked for could be stopped and even reversed,” Gierzynski said. Even with the excitement of the close gubernatorial race, some students still feel less than inclined to participate in local rather than national elections. Junior political science major Xana Raymond said that she is not planning on voting in the midterm elections.   “I don’t think that I know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision. I haven’t been following the election closely enough to feel confident in any one candidate,” Raymond said. “State-level midterm elections do not typically have as much of a draw for college students, who are more interested in presidential elections,” Wengroff said. “Though people may not think there is an impact in voting in the midterm elections, it makes a significant influence for the next two years in regards to national legislation and a buildup for the general election,” Wengroff said. Raymond said, however, that even though she will not be visiting the polls this election, she thinks that UVM students will be more inclined to vote in this midterm election than others. “I think students are more interested in this midterm election than others because the candidates are all very likeable and share the same liberal views that a lot of UVMers hold, like Matt Dunne’s environmental protection plan or Deb Markowitz’s clean energy jobs plan,” she said. “These are topics students feel really passionate about and that will bring them to the polls.” Republican Vermont State Senate candidate Annette Renaud said that she also feels that components of her campaign, such as creating jobs and intelligent environmental plans, particularly resonate with students. Political science majors are especially likely to get involved, Raymond said. “I think that we’re much more likely to get involved in campaigns or internships because of our enthusiasm for politics,” she said. “It’s also much easier for us to keep up with campaign developments because that’s something we often discuss in classes or amongst our friends within the major or minor.” Increased voting is not the only way that students are getting involved.  The amount of interest in internships in this midterm election is comparably larger than that of past midterm elections, Gierzysnki said. Renaud said that a significant portion of her staff is college students.   “It just seems that they’re more engaged,” she said.  “They just want to make sure that they have a voice.” Through internships, students get a sense of control, empowerment and a first hand look at seeing how America works, Renaud said. Wengroff said that she expects to hear from more students seeking internships now that the primary has occurred as well.