Breaking Records in College Campus Voter Registration at the University of Maryland

University of Maryland Students

By Allanna Wallace
By Allanna Wallace
Unigo Campus Rep at the University of Maryland
Oct. 10, 2008

UMD Political Debate 
The College Republicans and the College Democrats hold a debate inside the University View. 

From the moment freshmen step foot into their dorms, they become aware of the political activism that thrives within the University of Maryland campus. Prior to student move-in, TERPSvote, an organization aimed at getting students registered and informed, stocks every dormitory on campus with voter registration cards. TERPSvote as well as several other organizations have been all over campus, asking students to register to vote and they are finding that the majority of students are already registered.

More Maryland students are registering to vote now than ever before.

“We’re seeing a huge upward trend,” said Lauren Kim, a senior arts history major and the voter registration chair of TERPSvote.

Currently UMD has the second largest voter registration drive in the nation. In 2004 the University System of Maryland, which consists of five universities, registered a combined total of 2,000 student voters. This election, they expect the College Park campus to reach the last election’s combined total alone. The issues surrounding this year’s election may be behind the increased number of voter registrations. Students quoted in the school’s paper, the Diamondback, said they feel the most important issues are the economy, foreign policy and taxes.

Being in close proximity to the White House allows the campus to host many political speakers and encourages students to get involved in national politics. Last February, UMD held a rally for Barack Obama in which 18,000 people attended. Despite being next to Washington D.C. and the large number of political events that take place on campus, the president of the College Democrats, John Allenbach, said the College Democrats still receive apathy from students.

“Everyone who is involved is very involved, but there are some students who just don’t care,” said Allenbach. However, he notes that people are becoming more involved as the election approaches.

According to their webpage, the College Democrats “are committed to fighting student apathy on campus”. They do this by holding weekly phone banks and organizing events such as a speech from a representative from NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, a political advocacy group, on October 1st. They also travel to Virginia every weekend to campaign for Obama where they feel their efforts will be more beneficial because Virginia is a swing state.

Republicans face a fair amount of opposition on this campus. Regis Fox, a civil engineering junior and member of the College Republicans, says that they hold events such as a trip to Virginia to hear McCain speak but feels that being a Republican is “an uphill battle because it’s such a liberal campus”.

The College Democrats and Republicans have actually been coming together to host a number of events, including a series of debates. Since 25 percent of the vote will come from the nation’s youth, the College Democrats and Republicans have been working together to get young people voting. The large population of youth voters mandates that both parties focus on getting young voters excited about voting.

“There are always issues affecting students,” Kim said. “The key element to the increase in student voters is the targeting of youth voter registration and mobilization.”

Volunteers from both parties have been doing just that through tabling on campus, making announcements in class, canvassing in dorms and off-campus and encouraging students to visit Hopefully their efforts will get students to realize that we have the power to elect the next president and that our decision will impact the rest of our lives.