BY JESSICA PIKE
As the voter registration deadline draws nearer to Oct. 6, many UMW students are diligently working tables at the Eagle’s Nest, knocking on Fredericksburg residents’ doors and making phone calls to community members. All the efforts are to ensure that everyone is signed up to vote for the upcoming 2008 Presidential election.
Junior Joe Buonannata, president of E. Pluribus Unum, a non-partisan political awareness group at UMW, recognizes the importance of student involvement in the voting process.
“I want to make it easy for students to register to vote, get their absentee ballots, and learn more about the candidates that they are voting for,” Buonannata said.
Another large-scale group responsible for voter registration across the nation is The Community Voters Project (CVP).
The CVP is a non-partisan voter registration group that hires and trains professional staff to register United States citizens to vote.
Allison Cairo, Va. state director of the CVP, said that the group has just started doing work within the Fredericksburg area, but is still encouraging students to get involved with the organization.
“We are still looking for more students, especially during the last few weeks before registration deadline. We want to make sure we speak to as many people as possible,” Cairo said.
Cairo stated that by working for CVP, students and community members can expect to make between $8-$10 an hour.
However, many UMW students volunteer their time to increase political awareness and do not receive any money for their hard work and efforts.
Junior Sara Berkowitz, an intern for the Barack Obama Campaign for Change, is one such student who finds satisfaction in simply assisting others with the voting process.
“When I register someone to vote, it makes me feel like I am making a direct impact on what is happening,” Berkowitz said. “Even though I do not know if they are going to make it to the polls, it is exciting to know that it is one more number, one more person.”
Joe Buonannata has the same mindset, intent on assisting the UMW community.
“It’s a great feeling to know that you’ve helped someone, even in a small way, in the process of making a difference in the way this country is run,” Buonannata said.
Yet, being involved in voting registration is not always an easy task.
Sophomore Justine Rothbart, an active member of the Young Democrats, said she has had to deal with people on the phone hanging up on her and other rude rejection.
Berkowitz also reflected on some of the difficult and funny times she has had while canvassing.
“A lot of dogs have attacked us,” Berkowitz said, laughing.
However, these UMW students all get excited and enjoy assisting first time voters in sending in their registration forms.
“For many of us, we are registering to vote in our first presidential election, which makes it that more exciting,” Buonannata said.
Once registered to vote, political science associate professor Elizabeth Larus advises students to defend their choice of candidate with reason, and not take rumor, innuendo, blogs, and campaign ads as good sources of information.
“Voters really have to work to find reliable information on candidates, and unfortunately, a lot of students don’t do this legwork and vote with the herd,” Larus said.