To be young, in politics

Two women work to bring out youth vote

Posted: October 26, 2012

Rocktown Weekly Oct. 26-Nov. 1
Editor’s Note: Rocktown Weekly believes everyone’s voice counts, which is why, this week, we chose to see how young campaigners are making theirs heard.
Unfortunately, repeated attempts to make contact with a representative from one of the two major political parties were unsuccessful.

o, in the spirit of fairness, we are withholding our sources’ party affiliations.

The voter registration deadline has passed. The presidential debates are complete. And with the election drawing near, young adults in Harrisonburg are out in numbers, drawing awareness and support for the candidate of their choice. Known as a swing state, Virginia will undoubtedly play a key role in the outcome.
Just into her second year of college at James Madison University, Stephanie Salomon juggles a major in political science, a minor in Spanish, and interns at a local campaign office.
With an already full plate, dedicating time to campaigning is not a question for  Salomon. “Our generation has a huge amount at stake here with this election,” she said.
As an intern, Salomon attends classes in the morning and heads to the campaign office in the afternoon.
“On television, you see what the national campaign is doing. There’s so much more work going on in the background, behind the scenes, in the long-term, that affects how Virginia will vote and the outcome of the election,” explained Salomon.
Before the voter registration deadline passed, Salomon coordinated registration drives at JMU, collaborating with various groups, including her university’s party-affiliated organization, to which she belongs.
She’s also helped run voter registration drives both on campus and at off-campus student housing complexes around town.
Much like Salomon, Julia Smyers, president of one of JMU’s party-affiliated groups, is busy carrying a major in Spanish and a minor in English as a Second Language, but she finds time to support the platform and get the word out amongst students.
“I think it’s important that we make our voices heard. Actually, I think we have a responsibility to inform ourselves and then make our voices heard,” according to Smyers.
Talking politics
Both of these young women interact with peers and the public on a daily basis, in a somewhat challenging capacity: It takes not only dedication, but courage to vocalize your personal political position and attempt to sway the undecided.
By canvassing, Salomon and Smyers work to bring out the votes.
“[The most important part] is voter contact, talking to voters and discussing why I believe [what I believe] and discussing the issues with them, seeing how people have been affected ... and where they want to see the country go,” said Salomon
“I’ve learned a lot about ... different students and even people in the county and city, and how politics affect their lives.”
Identifying and addressing issues, explaining the candidates’ points of view and registering voters are only part of the responsibilities charged to Smyers and Salomon; they must also get voters to the polls.
As an intern, Salomon canvasses more than just students. From making phone calls to knocking doors, Salomon gets the word out in Harrisonburg.
“Now we’re in the ‘get-out-to-vote’ phase …  Door knocking is, I think, one of the most effective voter contacts. People are very receptive and polite; they want to talk about the issues. Canvassing is one of the best things we do,” Salomon said.
“We’re going to be focusing on face-to-face connection with students, especially to educate them on what they need on Election Day, and to remind them they need to make their voices heard,” said Smyers.
Both of these young women say their involvement is crucial to the campaign.
“In a swing state like Virginia, everybody’s vote really counts,” said Salomon. “I don’t see how you can not want to have a say in [this election].”