Many Davidson students will be among the North Carolinians who cast votes in the upcoming midterm election. Though they come from many different states, they have registered to vote in Mecklenburg County, and will be exercising their civil right on Nov. 4 at Davidson Town Hall, the polling place for Davidson College. Early voting takes place two miles up the road at Cornelius Town Hall.
In addition to casting a ballot, the election has motivated some students to work on behalf of their favorite candidates, and to urge their college peers to register and get involved.
Campus chapters of the College Republicans, College Democrats and College Libertarians have all been active in pre-electoral activities.
Beth Wright '17, president of the College Republicans, said that group's main goal is to educate students so that they can make informed decisions in the voting booth. An economics major from Lewistown, Mont., she became interested in politics during the 2012 presidential election. Although she could not yet vote, she discussed the election with her U.S. Government class.
"Student involvement in politics is critical because we have the education and drive to make real change," Wright said. "We need to be responsible, educated voters in order to help our country progress, in whatever direction that may be."
The electoral contest generating the most interest on campus – and even nationally – is the U.S. Senate race between Democrat and current N.C. Senator Kay Hagan and Republican challenger N.C. Rep. Thom Tillis. The race is extremely close, with neither candidate having a clear lead. Wright serves as an intern with the Tillis campaign, spending about several hours per week at the campaign office stuffing envelopes and making phone calls. She said this work is rewarding not only because she firmly believes in Tillis's politics, but also because youth presence in the campaign office seems to encourage veteran campaign staffers.
The College Democrats are led by co-presidents Rahael Borchers '15 and Hampton Stall '15. They have been organizing Hagan supporters to meet with local field organizers and canvass neighborhoods in Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville, encouraging citizens to vote for Hagan, and giving them information on when and where to vote.
Political Science major Borchers is no stranger to canvassing. She first knocked on doors in her hometown of Pleasanton, Calif., in 2008. "I remember canvassing in the rain for Barack Obama in 2008 with my father and believing that we were on a highly important mission, even though Obama was clearly going to win the state of California!" she said.
Borchers said her involvement in College Democrats has opened doors and created friendships. In spring 2012, she spent about 20 hours a week as an intern for the Democratic National Convention committee planning for the DNC in Charlotte. She was very involved in Obama's re-election campaign in 2012, and through that met local volunteer and grassroots organizer Natasha Marcus, who is now running for a seat in the N.C. House.
Although the United States has a two party system and the majority of politics align with these two parties, Libertarians also have candidates in this year's race, and the party recently hit a milestone of 25,000 registered voters in the state. Sean Haugh, a pizza delivery man and former Libertarian Party leader from Durham, is the Libertarian candidate in the U.S. Senate race. Haugh is predicted to win anywhere from one to seven percent of the vote, possibly making the difference in this election.
Brian Wiora '17, a philosophy major from Dallas, serves as president of Davidson's College Libertarians. He said "I'm voting for Haugh in this election because the more awareness there is of a political party or a political candidate, the more likely it is that people are going to vote for him or her. If Libertarians can get up to three or five percent of the vote, people will have to ask, ‘Do we include them in debates?' It's also conceivable that those who voted Libertarian will go out into the world and educate people on this third option."
Though they represent different places on the political spectrum, it is not uncommon to see Davidson's student leaders and supporters at the same campus political events-most recently at a watch party at Summit Coffee on campus for the debate between the Senate candidates.
That's because the students may disagree on specific issues, but all agree on the positive impact that students can have through involvement in the electoral process. Borchers said, "Students have a tendency to become self absorbed, but elections can pull us out of that. Students involved in politics gain a critical awareness that our lives are interconnected within this state, nation and world." She also noted that recent elections in North Carolina have been determined by as little as 13 votes per precinct. "Every vote we turn out can make a difference," said Borchers.
Wright added, "Without a doubt our input makes a difference. The positive impact of educating students on the issues cannot be underestimated."
And Wiora concluded, "Politics is not just an interesting and engaging area. It is also a vital one in a democracy. Everyone should feel the need to be politically active."
Bridget Lavender '18 contributed to reporting this story.