In a swing state like North Carolina, student volunteers serve as the vanguard for the presidential campaigns.
The campaigns of President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have each sought the youth vote. Given that college students are often apathetic in elections, it falls to the work of recruiting offices and dedicated volunteers to get students to the polls, said Tori Bragg, director for the North Carolina Young Americans for Romney.
Both Duke Democrats and Duke College Republicans have, nonetheless, secured a steady number of volunteers to increase election awareness.
“In North Carolina, the volunteer hours go a long way,” said sophomore David Winegar, president of Duke Democrats. “The race is still really close—every single vote counts.”
The upcoming election is a critical one for young adults due to the issues at stake, said Charly Norton, spokesperson for Obama for America. She cited health care reform, the Pell Grants and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as especially relevant to college students and recent graduates.
Junior Taylor Imperiale, president of Duke College Republicans, noted that enthusiasm for Obama among young people has decreased since the 2008 campaign, when the president enjoyed a substantial advantage in the youth vote.
“There is a lot of momentum on our side,” Imperiale said. “Conservative and independent students are volunteering because they’ve been disappointed by the results of the last four years and are looking for a change.”
Recruitment for the Obama campaign has also been successful by involving students in leadership roles through fellowship programs such as the Fall Organizing Fellowship, Norton said. Obama for America has volunteer organizing teams on 22 college campuses in North Carolina.
Bragg noted that regional offices also play a major role in organizing and mobilizing local volunteers for the Romney campaign.
The liberal views held by many college students have not posed a major obstacle to recruitment for the Romney campaign, she added.
“There’s actually been a significant rise in interest in a more conservative tax plan,” Bragg said. “Students have seen their friends and family lose jobs or not be able to find jobs after graduation. They’re excited to see a change in the administration.”
Volunteers on both sides find themselves increasingly busy as the election draws nearer. Approximately 20 Romney volunteers will be going into Durham to make phone calls and knock on doors this weekend, Imperiale said, adding that the group will participate in three public discussions about the election, including a debate with the Duke Democrats Nov. 1.
In addition to their recent rally on the plaza, volunteers for Obama plan on hosting a number of on-campus events in the weeks leading up to the election, Winegar said.
“Most of the people at Duke right now didn’t get to vote for President Obama in 2008,” Winegar noted. “Now in college, as they’ve become more politically aware, people have started to want to get involved. They want to win this thing.”