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Inside Politics

Many first-time voters at Northwestern

By Jerome C. Pandell
Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Campus Vibe is a weekly feature that provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. This week's contributor is Jerome C. Pandell, the managing editor of The Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper of Northwestern University. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or Northwestern University.

Members of Northwestern Students for Obama attend a rally.

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Northwestern University
Campus Vibe

EVANSTON, Illinois (CNN) -- For their initiation into the democratic process, many younger students at Northwestern University campaigned and cast votes in the March 16 Illinois primary, participating in a presidential contest for the very first time.

Their participation was a great improvement from 2002, according to Harvene Brown, an election judge at the Patten Gym polling place.

Brown, who lives in Evanston, said the number of student voters this year was impressive. "The year before last year we had nobody. It's surprising."

First-time voter Ken Laskowski wrestled over which Democratic candidate he would support, narrowing it down to Sen. John Kerry or former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

"To be honest, I hadn't really decided until about a few weeks ago," said Laskowski, an engineering student and Connecticut native. "But after Dean dropped out I decided to go with Kerry."

A little more than 260 votes were cast at two polling places on the university campus, Alice Millar Chapel and Patten Gym, where Laskowski voted. "Illinois is not my home state," Laskowsky, a junior, said. "But I had never registered. I just turned 18 when I came here."

At the chapel polling place, 203 votes were cast, election officials said, while at Patten -- near Northwestern's Fraternity Row -- 60 people voted.

Another non-Illinois native -- Avery Maron -- said he was so interested in voting in the state's primary that he changed his voter registration to Illinois.

Voting is only one way to participate in the electoral process. Many Northwestern students also got involved in a second democratic activity in 2004: campaigning in support of a candidate.

In his race to become the Illinois Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, state Sen. Barack Obama worked to win support among university students, including voters at Northwestern.

More than 50 Northwestern students campaigned to help Obama clinch his party's nomination by forming a campus chapter of Students for Obama.

Word of mouth about their candidate influenced Laskowski. "I had very good friends who were lobbying for Obama." Laskowski said. "As a result, they got me turned on to him."

Obama was victorious, and several Students for Obama celebrated his primary win at Obama's election night party in downtown Chicago.

"We had so many students volunteering today in the middle of finals week," said Matthew Yalowitz, a Northwestern freshman attending the victory celebration.

Students for Obama made campaign phone calls to potential voters for "three days straight," Yalowitz said, and handed out literature about Obama in Evanston.

Journalism sophomore and Obama campaigner Christopher Kriva called the Northwestern voter turnout "amazing."

"It shows that students do vote," he said.

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