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New Voters Project is Phenomenal Success

By Christine Duellman
UW-RF News Bureau

NOV. 5, 2004--During this election season the New Voters Project at UW-River Falls proved successful in getting students registered, informed, and to the polls.

There was a total of 854 voters pre-registered, of which New Voter Project members registered 837. A total of 1, 708 votes were cast on Nov. 2, which doubled the amount of votes cast on campus in the 2000 presidential election.

City of River Falls Aldermanic District 2, which includes the University and surrounding neighborhoods and like the city’s other three voting districts, preferred U.S. Sen. John Kerry over President George W. Bush.

"Politicians finally started paying attention to the 18- to 24-year-old age group that usually doesn’t have a lot of influence and usually isn’t mobilized to have any kind of impact on elections," said NVP committee member Miriam Huffman, who is the UW-RF student involvement coordinator.

The purpose of the non-partisan NVP project was to encourage college students to register and to vote. With a committee of a dozen students who were deputized in River Falls to register voters, the NVP committee employed a variety of tactics to register students. Registration tables were set up in residence halls, the Hagestad Student Center, and Rodli Commons for several weeks. NVP members also visited classes to speak about voting and registration.

The New Voters Project also played host to many of the candidates for Wisconsin legislative districts and the Third Congressional District to allow them to speak on a variety of issues including the importance of student voting, tuition and financial aid.
Some of the candidates who visited campus to speak to students were Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and challenger Gary Bakke of New Richmond, 30th Assembly Rep. Kitty Rhoades (R-Hudson) and challenger Tom Parent of River Falls, as well as U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) Many other candidates for state office also were invited, but did not visit.

A "Voter Palooza" celebration also was held with live bands and entertainment. Pre-election rallies also took place to get students excited about the election. New Voter Project committee members spent many hours calling the voters they registered to remind them to cast their vote.

Discussions also were held on the electoral process, including a faculty panel discussion on Wisconsin as a target state and a lecture by Thomas Patterson, author of the critically acclaimed book, "The Vanishing Voter."

All of the hard work paid off at the polls. Late UW-RF Chancellor Ann Lydecker placed the NVP very high on her priority list, signing up the campus last February in the nonpartisan national project that targeted young people in six swing states. She was especially interested in getting students actively involved in the election process.

"Ann would have been bragging about our students to everyone," said NVP Chairman Mark Kinders, who is the UW-RF University Communications director. "The phenomenal success of the New Voters Project would have made her really proud."

Kinders is interested to see if students will become engaged in the legislative and congressional sessions coming up in January. "The election turnout was marvelous and the New Voters Project did a remarkable job. Now it’s going to be up to the students to continue to be participants in the public policy dialogue," said Kinders.

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Last updated: Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:16 Central Daylight Time

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