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Campus Politics: From storming dorms to abject apathy

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Editor's Note: CNNU is a feature that provides student perspectives on news and trends from colleges across the United States. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or the schools where the campus correspondents are based.

(CNN) -- College students across the country are gearing up for November's elections by storming dorms, hosting a "Second Amendment Day," and, in some cases, drinking liberally.

Young Democrats at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's student union stuck address labels to stacks of mail flyers, while, one floor up, College Republicans brainstormed on how to increase interest in the November 7 elections.

"Second Amendment Day," was presented by the College Republicans as one idea.

"We Republicans like our right to bear arms," said Sarah Schmidt, president of UNL's College Republicans. "It's something that sparks a lot of college kids' interest and will maybe spark a higher turnout for us at meetings."

She admits that it's a challenge getting students excited about going to the polls.

"College students are more isolated," Schmidt said. "Lots of students don't even know there's an election. So I think if they're more aware of election issues and how they impact them, they'll be more likely to vote."

In California, Pepperdine University's Young Republicans are focused on getting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger re-elected. And at least one student was looking for more substance to the political debate.

"The campus Republicans and Democrats should talk about issues that pertain to us, like education, budget cuts and tax issues," said student Monique Maravilla.

At Howard University in Washington, politics on the national level seemed secondary to student council elections and homecoming festivities. Though the Howard University Democrats meet every Wednesday to discuss planned events, Howard Republicans didn't even register as a group this year, according to the student activities office.

Howard University Democrats have adopted the cheeky "Hottest asses on The Yard" slogan for its t-shirts this year. But the group's vice president, Shakera Bradley, insisted their work was serious.

"We are about spreading the Democratic voice on campus and getting Howard students to become politically involved in their home community and in D.C. Also, getting them interested in politics so they can go back home and make a difference in their community," Bradley said.

Young Democrats at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campaigned to get out the vote and listened to former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis speak on the importance of grass-roots politics.

While Democrats focused on campaigning, UNC College Republicans concentrated on expanding their membership. Chairman Tyson Grinstead said even though he has had to work hard to get students involved, his group still holds a vital role at UNC.

"On a liberal campus we are able to give conservatives a home and allow them to feel more confident about conservative values," he said.

Students on Tulane University's campus in New Orleans have been slowly amping up their work for campaign 2006. College Democrats and Republicans have held informal and formal events to encourage students to become more active in local, state and national elections.

One of the best-attended events was the "Drinking Liberally" party at the beginning of fall term. The event was affiliated with the Tulane College Democrats and held off campus as a way for students to get acquainted with the organization. Local Democratic candidate John Edwards Jr. (District 2 congressional race) even attended.

At Fairfield University in Connecticut, the University's College Democrats kicked off its "dorm storm" campaign, an effort in which students go door-to-door on campus with voter registration forms. About 200 students registered to vote as Democrats because of the effort, said junior Sarah Kennedy, president of the College Democrats.

Fairfield's College Republicans President Sam Demarzo, a senior, said his group had two membership drives and plans to do a campus canvas similar to the Democrats' "dorm-storm."

But for those trying to register students to vote at Florida Atlantic University, enthusiasm was hard to find .

"Later," "I don't have time right now" and "I don't know" were some of the responses Cary Nations got when she asked students crossing her path if they were registered to vote.

Nations, a volunteer for the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office, has spent a week at Florida Atlantic University's Boca Raton campus trying to get students to register as part of a county vote drive.

After a whole day on campus, Nations only registered 25 students to vote; this has been the case all week.

"It's discouraging," said Nations. "Most of the students seem indifferent about it. Some won't even look me in the eye," she said.

FAU's College Republicans were also on campus encouraging students to vote. They haven't had much luck getting people to stop either.

"Midterm elections just aren't as popular or as sexy as the presidential election," said FAU junior Ben Wack, who's been with the College Republicans for a year. "Students just don't care," he said.

Still, the club will be campaigning on campus every week until the election, said Anna Alexopouslos, president of College Republicans at FAU.

"I was in my political science class, and they didn't even know there was a primary," she said. "That's scary. That's why I'm doing this."

Rachael Joyner at Florida Atlantic University, Phillip Lucas and Kendra Desrosiers at Howard University, Tracy Boyer at University of North Carolina, Michelle Chan at Pepperdine University, Chris Welch at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ben Doody at Fairfield and Chris Burcham at Tulane University contributed to this article.


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Florida Atlantic University students register to vote for the upcoming November elections.

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