A different kind of party

College students become politically active in the presidential primaries

POLITICALLY PUMPED<br>Young people rally for Barack Obama in Nevada on Saturday (Jan. 19).

Young people rally for Barack Obama in Nevada on Saturday (Jan. 19).

Courtesy Of barackobama.com

Bryce Fingado spent his last few weeks of winter break in Sin City.

But rather than gambling at casinos, seeing live shows and living it up on the Las Vegas Strip, Fingado put in 10 to 12 hours a day working on the campaign trail.

Fingado, a junior at Chico State, is a member of the Democratic Club on campus and an avid supporter of Barack Obama. So when it came time to make plans for the semester break, he knew he wanted to lend a helping hand to the candidate in the Nevada primary.

“I’ve always wanted to be politically active,” Fingado said in a phone interview from Las Vegas. “I was in my high school government class when the 2004 election occurred and was disappointed I couldn’t vote. This time around I wanted to be as active as possible.”

Along with Brandon Lodge and Aaron Skaggs, two fellow Chico State students, Fingado made the trek to Nevada to rally for Obama. Through a program that welcomes campaign assistance from neighboring states, Fingado has been housed with fellow Obama supporters at no cost.

“All I’ve had to pay for is my transportation and my food. At the end of this it will probably cost me about $300,” Fingado said.

It’s an expense that Fingado said is well worth the experience.

“I spend six to seven hours a day just talking with people by knocking on their doors. After that I typically call people for three to four hours,” Fingado said. “It’s been a truly amazing experience and has shown me firsthand how the political world works.”

The interest of youth in the political process is something that Diana Dwyre has seen rise on campus, particularly in this election.

The chairwoman of the Political Science Department said that this election cycle has generated more buzz on campus, which is typical of elections where a president is termed out.

“Whenever you have both parties putting people out there, there is more competition and in turn more public interest as a whole. The environment on campus has been one of heightened interest,” Dwyre said.

She added that this also stems from the issues that are being highlighted in this election. Debates surrounding the war in Iraq and the economy have had an impact on student involvement.

“These issues are something that students are going to feel in their world, too. They know people who are serving in the war, they feel rising tuition prices,” Dwyre said.

Prior to the winter intercession, Dwyre said she saw students registering to vote in significant numbers.

“There have been a lot of people that are excited,” Dwyre said.

She credits the student Democrats with being “incredibly active” in registering students, but also said the Republicans have pitched in with growing political activism.

The trend of young voter activity is not isolated to Chico State. The primary elections in Iowa and New Hampshire saw a sharp increase in turnout for voters under 30.

In Iowa, where Barack Obama found victory, the number of Democratic voters under 30 made up 22 percent of the total turnout, up 5 percentage points from 2004’s election.

Republicans, too, saw an increase in turnout from younger voters. In the 2000 New Hampshire primary they made up only 11 percent of the voting population. This time around youth represented 14 percent of the total.

The surge in young voters is something that Fingado said he particularly sees working on Obama’s campaign. At the campaign office where Fingado is located, he said there are a number of young people working, including high school students.

“Obama’s main constituents are young people,” Fingado said. “His appeal is something that is re-energizing young voters. You see a lot of young Hollywood actors supporting him, too, which has an effect on the younger population.”

Although Hillary Clinton won the Nevada primary, Fingado said seeing his generation pull together in an arena they have been largely absent from inspires him.

“Young voters could carry a lot of weight and I think it’s time they realize that,” Fingado said. “I think if we just go to the polls we’ll see the kind of effect we can really have.”