Student political activists still at work after election

By Masha Stul

With elections over, student political activists are already charting semester plans to ensure that students continue to be represented and engaged in politics.

Eric Preston, junior in LAS and president of College Democrats, met with State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson on Wednesday to discuss the issue of students who were refused the right to vote because they could not provide enough documents to prove residency. Election judges were inconsistant about the documentation that they required to prove residency. Though some judges were strict about the amount of documentation needed, most voters made it through the polls with the amount of documentation they had, he said.

Preston said he and Jakobsson are looking at ideas on what legislation can be enacted to prevent the same problem from occurring during the next elections.

“The General Session is not looking at new legislature until next year,” he said. “In January and February, things will start to get done.”

In order to represent student interests correctly, he said he is talking to students who had issues during election day, disregarding the party affiliation they may have.

In order to keep students informed, both College Democrats and College Republicans have invited local politicians of their respective parties to speak on campus. Preston said College Democrats are making arrangements to host Comptroller of the state of Illinois Dan Hynes, state Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan and state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

Robert McNeily, sophomore in FAA and president of College Republicans, said he is especially excited to host Aaron Schock, currently the youngest member of the House of Representatives.

“(Schock) experienced that young people can have a voice in the government because he got a seat in a school board at 18,” McNeily said. “If young people can work hard enough, they can make a difference in politics, and (Schock) is interested to see that kind of activism on campus.”

Provided all goes as planned, Schock will be speaking on campus Dec. 3, McNeily said. College Republicans are also working to bring in former Gov. Mitt Romney, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich and political commentator and writer Ann Coulter.

Students for Barack Obama plan to get involved in a variety of community service, said the organization’s president Jake Hendee, junior in ACES.

“Community service is a big part of Obama’s message,” he said.

McNeily, Preston and Hendee all agreed that current events in politics have great impact upon student lives.

“If we don’t get a job right away, we may not get insurance,” Preston said. “Unemployment is continuing to rise at record levels. As students that are entering the job market, that issue will be affecting us the most.”

When asked to identify the personal motivation that pushed each organization’s president to invest so much time and effort into political activism on campus, none were shy to express a passion for democracy, McNeily said.

“I think this country is unique in the sense that parties can transition in power without the use of guns, knives and bombs – we do it with a handshake,” he said.