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Down to the wire

Voter-registration drives, events lead up to election 2004

Quinn Orb '07 showed up at Thayer Hall on a typical Tuesday evening for a slice of pizza and maybe a cookie, but he had politics on his mind.

"Since New Hampshire is a swing state, I decided to register here so my vote would count a little more," he said as he filled out New Hampshire papers at a College-organized voter-registration drive held in Tindle Lounge. Orb, an Idahoan who describes himself as "moderately" political, supports U.S. Senator John F. Kerry's presidential bid.

Students register to vote.
Students register to vote at Tindle Lounge in Thayer Dining Hall on Oct. 12 at a drive held by the College and the town of Hanover. (photo by Amanda Weatherman)

Linda Kennedy, Director of Student Activities, helped organize the Oct. 12 event.  Held in conjunction with town officials, the goal was streamlining the process for Dartmouth students who wanted to register to vote in New Hampshire.

 "We served 50 pizzas and 200 red, white and blue cookies," Kennedy said. "And we registered hundreds of students. Many will be voting in their home states by absentee ballot, but for those who want to vote in New Hampshire, we want to make it as simple as possible." 

 "The [town hall] procedure for registration is complicated," said Helen Gurina '08, a first-time voter who took advantage of the event. "It's just simpler here."

Kennedy explained that when students register, they must provide documentation that proves they live in a College residence hall or other campus housing facility.

"That involves going to the Office of Residential Life and getting a special memo," she said. "Then you have to take that to the town clerk's office or the polling place. At our drives, everyone is together in the same place - students, town officials and residential life personnel. It's one-stop shopping."

Students simply showed College IDs at the registration table. A staff member looked up their residential-life records on a computer to verify their New Hampshire residence, and a supervisor from the Hanover voter checklist approved their forms. Checklist supervisors and volunteers from the town of Hanover worked at a long table to speed the process, but the line of students still stretched out the door.

"We built this event on previous successes," said Lee Udy, Supervisor of the Hanover checklist. "With the College's help, we registered 200 students before the primary last January and 342 more last week."  

Udy is one of three elected checklist supervisors in Hanover. Her job entails, among other things, maintaining and verifying lists of registered voters before and during the election. She and her two colleagues, Louise Longnecker and Elaine Hawthorne, agree that the cooperative registration drives are successful.

"It makes everyone's life easier and gets students involved in a critical democratic process," she said.

Earlier this month, Dean of the College James Larimore sent a note to all students urging them to register.

"The liberal arts education that students receive at Dartmouth challenges them to search for truth in a wide range of disciplines and to ask the right questions in any endeavor, including politics."

- Andrew Samwick

"We hope Dartmouth will be amongst the colleges with the highest voter turnout of young adults in the country," he said.

Kaelin Goulet '07 is doing her part to make this a reality, complementing organized registration drives with a nonpartisan website, "Vote Clamantis in Deserto." With support from the Rockefeller Center, the site is designed to make the process fast and painless and to link students to other issues-oriented resources. Goulet said that has logged close to 10,000 hits since its launch in late September. 

"In an intellectually charged environment like Dartmouth's even one missed opportunity to vote is one too many," she added.

 Across the campus, students have been digging into what's at stake in this election through lectures, classes, rallies and research resources. 

At the Digital Library, "Election '04! The Big Picture," offers a suite of links that educate and inform. By entering "Election '04!" into the search field on the Dartmouth homepage, the first search-results link leads to the library's resources.

Events at the Rockefeller Center leading up to Nov. 2 and beyond are designed to examine the issues objectively and in depth. An ongoing lecture series, "Patriotism and Dissent: The Patriot Act and Civil Liberties," is tackling how the government balances national security with personal freedom, and two post-election Volk Lectures will examine the history of affirmative action in education and the societal implications of international trade in the developing world.

"The 2004 election," wrote Andrew Samwick, Rockefeller Center Director and Professor of Economics in a recent newsletter, "is without question the most important in several decades."

Noting that this will be the last presidential election before the baby boomers begin collecting Social Security and the cost of new Medicare benefits will become the responsibility of future generations, he adds that it is a particularly significant vote for young people.

The center continues to host a variety of events and projects that offer students an opportunity to be among the most well informed voters in the nation. A special Campaign 2004 series brought U.S. Senator Carol Mosley Braun (D-Ill.) to campus in early October. A faculty Countdown to the Election panel led by Professor of Government Linda Fowler and Dean Spiliotes, visiting from St. Anselm College, on Monday, Oct. 25, will be followed by an election night party on Tuesday, Nov. 2, and a talk on Sunday, Nov. 7, by former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean.

The Montgomery Endowment trained its lens on presidential politics this year. Students have met with and heard from preeminent writers and scholars including historian Robert Dallek and, most recently, former New York Times columnist Russell Baker. Once the votes are in, former trustee and Executive Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette David Shribman '76 will speak on "The New Architecture of American Politics" on Tuesday, Nov. 9.

"The liberal arts education that students receive at Dartmouth challenges them to search for truth in a wide range of disciplines and to ask the right questions in any endeavor, including politics," Samwick wrote.

At Tindle Lounge, Sam Han '08 stood in line, waiting to register as an independent and said he plans to vote for President George W. Bush.

"This makes it a lot more likely that I'll vote," he said.


Events Associated with the Election

Panel discussion: "Countdown to the Election," with Linda Fowler, Professor of Government, and Dean Spiliotes, Visiting Scholar from St. Anselm College

  • 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25
  • 2 Rockefeller
  • 646-3874

Election night party

  • 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2
  • Rockefeller Center
  • 646-3874

Class of 1930 Fellow Lecture: "Reflection of the 2004 Election and Prospects for the Future," by Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and former presidential candidate

  • 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7
  • Alumni Hall
  • 646-3874

Inaugural Stephen R. Volk Lecture: "Making Brown v. Board of Education Live in the 21st Century: Challenging Separate and Unequal Schools," by Gary Orfield, Professor of Education and Social Policy, Harvard University

  • 4:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8
  • 105 Dartmouth Hall
  • 646-3874

Montgomery Fellow lecture: Post election analysis by David Shribman '76, former Dartmouth trustee and Executive Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Volk Lecture: "International Trade, Poverty and Inequality in the Developing World," by Nina Pavcnik, Assistant Professor of Economics

  • 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18
  • 2 Rockefeller
  • 646-3874

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 12/17/08