Motivation, vans bring students to polling sites


The sign read “rides to the polls 8-3 p.m.,” but there was no one lining up.

Behind the table next to the sign were a few volunteers who had signed up to help take students to the polls. They were studying sample ballots and discussing the various measures. Very few students were looking for a ride to the polls.

The first load of students taken to the polls was mostly made up of members of the Students’ Association, which was sponsoring the shuttle rides. Only four senators had signed on to help, however. By the end of the lunch hour, fewer than 15 students had taken advantage of the shuttle.

The enthusiasm, or lack thereof, could almost be a metaphor for the youth vote in 2012, especially compared to 2008. What was more was the frustration of those who were passionate about the election.

Hassan Ali, an SA senator and the chief organizer of the shuttle program, traced a tear when talking about student interest in getting a ride to the polls.

“I think there was a lot more enthusiasm in 2008,” he said.

Ali cited the media’s portrayal of the presidential election as one of the biggest reasons for the lackluster enthusiasm. He said that because the media has spent so much time and effort talking about the “swing states” and how much influence they would have on the election, many students came to believe their vote just wouldn’t matter.

“I think they’re disillusioned with how the media is portraying the election,” Ali said.

What was more frustrating to Ali was the lack of interest most students had shown in the local races and the lack of knowledge about the voting process. Ali said that one student he took to the polls Nov. 6 was confused as to why he had a South Dakota ballot and not his home state Nebraska’s.

“It really has been frustrating,” Ali said. “The number one reason students don’t vote is convenience … there’s only so much you can do.”

For all his organizing and enthusiasm, Ali was just one of more than 12,000 students at SDSU who either voted or didn’t, each for their own reason.


The Political Science Major

Brooke Reiner, a former member of SA, was one of the first students to hop on the shuttle. She has been interested in politics for much of her life. Reiner’s interest in politics began when she was 12 years old and saw Tom Daschle at the state fair in Huron.

“I saw how much work they were doing to meet people and that kind of inspired me,” she said.

That experience

sparked her interest in the political process, but it’s not the only reason she was planning to vote.

“Even though I’m passionate about some things, I also feel like if I don’t, I’m a terrible person,” Reiner said.

The Pharmacy Major

For Chance Wacholtz, a junior from Omaha, the shuttle ride was a bit of a fraternal outing. He belongs to Delta Chi along with the shuttle driver, Ali and Jameson Goetz, the SA State and Local Government Committee chair, who rode along to the polls.

Wacholtz registered to vote using his school address mostly for convenience.

“I’m not going to drive that far, I don’t have the time,” he said.

Wacholtz grew up in a Republican household, but he was less than excited about the election. In fact, he said there really wasn’t any issue he was all that concerned with, before saying somewhat halfheartedly that economic recovery was the most important to him.

In the end, Wacholtz was fairly quiet about who he planned to vote for.

“I’m one of those people that thinks my vote is private,” he said.

The Nursing Major

Studying upstairs in The Union is not always quiet, but that’s how senior Molly Blaess spent a few hours of her Election Day. She had already cast her ballot as an absentee for Minnesota, her home state. Blaess said she cast her vote based mostly on women’s rights issues.

“With Romney I didn’t agree with his stance on reproductive rights,” she said.

Blaess said her family generally isn’t very political, with the exception of her sister, whom she credits with informing her about women’s issues. Even her circle of friends hasn’t been discussing the election much.

“We don’t really get started,” she said.

She voted for Obama.

“I just know who I want to vote for and why,” Blaess said.

The international student

Not every student at SDSU voted — some because this isn’t their country. That doesn’t mean the election won’t affect them, however. For Andres Abraham of Venezuela, the Nov. 6 election was slightly different from what he is used to.

“This is a very civilized country,” Abraham said. “Usually in my country the election is held on Sunday, and it’s a mess.”

For Abraham this year’s election means a lot. Venezuela is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil, while the U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of oil, which means what happens in the U.S. can have a big impact on the Venezuelan economy.

“It affects us a lot,” Abraham said.

Another concern for Abraham was the relationship between the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and the American president.

“My president is sort of a dictator,” Abraham said.

According to Abraham, President Obama has been on fairly good terms with the often unpredictable Chavez, which Abraham said is a good thing.

“For my point of view it’s easier to predict what will happen if Obama wins,” he said. “Sometimes it’s better to leave things as they are, because you never know what (Chavez) is going to do.”