BY KAT SAUNDERS
Natalie Weiner is a prominent Democratic supporter on campus. The senior is the President of the Young Democrats and started the campus chapter of Students for Barack Obama. So it was not surprising that when the new campaign center for Barack Obama opened in Fredericksburg over the summer, she was one of the first students volunteering there.
“I started volunteering with the office before there was an office,” she said. “Before they had opened the building.”
The office, one of 42 regional campaign offices for Obama’s campaign in Virginia, opened on July 26th. According to Weiner, about 20 others UMW students have internships there, and she has seen others come in to volunteer regularly.
Like most campaign offices, the center is staffed almost entirely by volunteers. Four paid staff members run the office.
“This whole campaign is volunteer based. I think that really exemplifies why people like the campaign too,” said Weiner.
Weiner said that the office had been flexible with student intern’s schedules, and that they do not have a set amount of hours they are required to work per week.
At the office, they help with everything from filing to phone banking and canvassing.
Junior Jonathon Shields, one of the interns, said that speaking with local voters was one of the opportunities he particularly enjoyed.
“Not only can you help Obama out, but it’s also a good opportunity to better understand Fredericksburg,” he said. “Going door-to-door talking with people about issues will tell you a lot about the community.”
Michael Watterson, Field Director of the Fredericksburg Office for the Campaign for Change in Virginia, emphasized the importance of student volunteers, especially in registering others to vote.
“We have seen a great deal of excitement from students at Mary Washington and across the state,” Watterson said. “Every day, students are using our office to reach out to members of our community. They have been making phone calls, knocking on doors, and registering a lot of new voters in the area.”
Registering voters is one of the key goals of the “Campaign for Change” in upcoming weeks. Watterson noted that college student activism is key in encouraging other students to vote.
“[Yes] It is contagious. If students see their friends volunteering or registering to vote than they will be more inclined to volunteer or register to vote themselves,” he said in an e-mail interview.
The new campaign office has also assisted on campus organizations with their activities.
“They’ve provided us with ideas and support,” Weiner said. “It’s just exciting and we’re very glad they’re paying attention to us.”
Weiner said that the staff and other volunteers had helped the Young Democrats and Students for Barack Obama by providing resources and rides, printing flyers and giving support, but not with any funding.
Students interested in volunteering with the Campaign for Change can contact the Young Democrats or the office, located at 261 Cambridge St.
Weiner encouraged students to become involved with the electoral process and to register to vote regardless of political affiliation.
“It’s not too late. It’s not too early” she said. “Any involvement is appreciated. Any sort of political participation you can do matters.”