USC political groups gear up for elections

As midterm elections quickly approach, USC’s political organizations are doing what they can to send students a message: Get out and vote.

Participation · Jonathan Brebner, a senior majoring in film production and political science, tables on Trousdale Parkway on Thursday to get students involved in USC College Democrats this election season. - Aditya Tannu | Daily Trojan

Though nothing’s been finalized, both major on-campus political groups — USC College Democrats and USC College Republicans — are planning events, lectures, trips and meetings to recruit new members and spread word about the upcoming elections.

“We’re really excited to hear what people want to do,” said Micah Scheindlin, a senior and political director of the College Democrats. “We want to get to know our members and see what they’re interested in.”

Scheindlin added that once the group gets an idea of what students are interested in, it will be able to cater more directly to student needs.

“We got hundreds of sign-ups at the involvement fair,” Scheindlin said, adding that he hoped the high number of recruits would mean a high voter turnout.

He noted, however, that voter turnout hasn’t been as high since the 2008 presidential election.

“There’s a lot of activity that came out of that election,” said Ann Crigler, interim director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “Students wanted to play a role in the political decision-making process.”

Still, she said USC mirrors the national trend. After such a major election, it was expected for voter turnout to die down.

“Involvement varies from year to year,” said Katherine Cook, chairwoman of the College Republicans. “Of course, during presidential election years, involvement is at its peak as students come out to support candidates. We hope to encourage more people to get involved not only in College Republicans but in local campaigns as well.”

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t student interest. Some students on campus want to get involved and say they wish there were more opportunities to do so.

“They’re not doing anything, honestly,” said Angel Lopez, a junior majoring in political science and international relations.

Lopez also said he’d like to see more academic and unbiased political information discussed out in the open, especially concerning major controversial issues.

“It would be cool to have a public religions discourse out on McCarthy Quad — just have panels where people talk and clarify the notions of the Middle East,” Lopez said.

To increase voter numbers this time around, the Unruh Institute will also host a number of events, including its Students Talk Back lunch series — weekly discussions involving political consultants, USC’s political organizations and students — as well as post-election night events.

The College Republicans also plan to host events, starting with a bipartisan memorial for the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Later in the year we will absolutely be hosting speakers that reflect the conservative values and interests of the club,” Cook said. “But this particular event isn’t about being partisan. It’s about being American, and I think people respond to that.”

Both clubs said they hope to increase voter participation through discussion and debate in order to encourage students to become informed.

“We’re past the era where I can say, ‘Read the L.A. Times or Daily Trojan to know [who to vote for],’” Scheindlin said.

Overall, both organizations urged students to do what they can to become informed and vote.

“There are a lot more people involved, and it’s a lot less glamorous, but at the end of the day, your representation elected in this midterm cycle and the decisions they make in office will have a much larger impact on your day-to-day life,” Cook said. “Students should know their vote is critical.”