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Campus Life campaigns to raise voter awareness

As the weather cools down, midterm elections are heating up, and administrators are encouraging Duke students to get involved.

Campus Life, a division of the Office of Student Affairs, is sponsoring Election Affection, a campaign to increase voting awareness through tabling and a speech by Jehmu Greene, former president of Rock the Vote!

"As a group, we really wanted to create a program that would be beneficial for students across all lines," said Sarah Morris, student leadership director for Jewish Life at Duke. "Civic engagement and responsibility are important for all of us."

On the West Campus Plaza Thursday afternoon, junior Alicia Huang, a Community Service Center quad representative, was tabling for the effort.

She sat behind a legion of patriotic pinwheels, American flags and red, white and blue Tootsie Rolls.

"Voting is really important, just to be part of the process," Huang said. "We're just here to reinforce the fact that it is out there."

Morris noted that the organizations participating in the drive-from the Community Service Center to the Panhellenic Council to Duke University Union's Major Speakers Committee-represent a wide spectrum of the University community.

Domonique Redmond, volunteer services coordinator at the CSC and facilitator for Campus Life meetings, noted that in 2004, individual Campus Life offices published candidates' positions as they related to each office's mission. There were also voter registration efforts held with Duke College Republicans and Duke Democrats.

This year's efforts have taken a slightly different direction, Redmond said, because it is a midterm election and the Campus Life board has a different makeup now.

"Unfortunately, not as many students are aware of midterm elections as we would like," Redmond added. "We hope that by putting it out there, it will help encourage engagement."

Claire Robbins, program coordinator at the Women's Center and one of the Campus Life programmers, said the group decided to have Greene speak as a way of expanding this year's effort.

"In the past, we had done Election Affection but not done a major keynote, and the focus was civic engagement," she said. "When we looked into Jehmu, we realized she was perfect in terms of being a non-partisan person who was really passionate about getting people involved."

Panhel President Chrissie Gorman, a senior, said when her group was approached by Campus Life to help fund the event, delegates thought it was a great opportunity to encourage students to get involved in the community.

"It seems like turnout [for the speech] will be pretty good," Gorman said. "There are a lot of advertisements around campus."

Although there is no presidential race this year, Gorman said many students are still interested in the Durham district attorney election because of rape allegations against three members of the 2005-2006 men's lacrosse team.

Robbins also said she expects high student interest.

"It doesn't take much time on Duke's campus to see how engaged students are right now in elections," she said. "Midterm elections are in some ways more important than presidential elections, even if there aren't glossy photos and high-profile debates."

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