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Analysis: Election excitement permeates a campus
By MELANIE LIDMAN
07/11/2012
In an election where the youth vote will be critical, colleges across the country are scrambling to make sure their students vote.
 
COLLEGE PARK, Maryland – The line to vote in the 2012 election at the University of Maryland’s Stamp Student Union center stretches around the entire floor as students clad in Terrapin gear study copies of the ballot intensely.

Outside, some cheerful students are squeezing in some last-minute stumping for Question Six, about gay marriage equality. Volunteers are plying them to wait in line for 25 minutes with chocolate, candies and assorted “I Voted” stickers.

In an election where the youth vote will be critical, college campuses across the country are scrambling to make sure their students vote. In the politically charged beltway around Washington, the election takes on heightened importance as many students crisscross the state lines to complete internships in political positions.

Craig Slack, the director of the Leadership and Community Service Learning Office said on Tuesday that the University of Maryland followed in the footsteps of many other large universities with a Democratic leaning. Maryland is also expected to stay blue and vote for incumbent Barack Obama. He also stressed the importance of Maryland’s seven ballot questions.

“Although this is a presidential election, there is a 13 percent approval rating of Congress, so we are concentrating on that,” Slack said. “While we want someone in the Oval Office who is competent, we also need to be worried about who is in Congress.”

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About 1,800 students will vote in the university’s student union out of a school population of more than 30,000. The majority will vote by absentee ballot or at their home polling stations. This includes sophomore Rola Saleh, who got up at 6 a.m. to vote in the nearby suburb of Beltsville.

“This was my first election, I’m really excited,” she said after returning to campus with a free T-shirt and an “I voted” sticker on her cheek.

“I made my mom and dad vote this time, they haven’t voted in years. My parents are from Lebanon and voting doesn’t mean as much there,” she said.

But the University of Maryland’s Hillel building, which serves as the Jewish community center, departed from the democratic leanings on campus, said Hearing and Speech Therapy freshman Dalya Lerner. Students at Hillel are mostly voting for Romney, she said.

“People are concerned about Obama, many people are pro-Romney because he really cares about Israel,” she added as she waited in line.

But the most important issue, according to Junior Elizabeth Virga, a volunteer organizing Tuesday’s polling at the University of Maryland, is that young people get out and vote.

“It’s important to have young people share their voice, so politicians will listen to what we have to say.”
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