Students call voters to up poll turnout

Students from both sides of the aisle came together Tuesday in a final match-up to take part in a phone banking competition in the Annenberg East Lobby for the final day of the election.

Persistence · Student volunteers call California and Nevada voters Tuesday to convince individuals to turn out to vote in the election. – Joseph Chen | Daily Trojan

The competition, sponsored by USC College Democrats, USC College Republicans and the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, aimed at motivating and encouraging voters to turn out on Election Day through phone calls.

For USC College Democrats President Aaron Taxy, the goal of the competition was to encourage eligible and capable voters to cast their ballots.

“In the few precious days leading up to the election, now we [transitioned] to make sure that everyone who is committed to vote for the president has the opportunity to submit their ballot and make their vote count,” Taxy said. “We [did] this by calling them to remind them about election day, [letting] them know where their polling place is and making sure that they have a ride to the polling place if they are unable to drive themselves.”

USC College Republicans president Maddy Lansky emphasized the impact that voters not only had on the presidential election, but  also on localized ballot measures.

“What we’re hoping to accomplish today is just to call as many voters as we can in California and also possibly Nevada to remind them to get to the polls and vote,” Lansky said.

Throughout the election cycle, Democrat and Republican students alike mobilized in an attempt to solidify support among young voters for their respective candidates. According to USC College Republicans membership director Lisa Ebiner Gavit, the focus shifted from swing-states to more local voters in the final hours of the election.

“We [did] a lot of phone banking, both off campus and at the Republican victory office in Thousand Oaks to precinct walk [door-to-door campaigning] and phone bank for both Romney and for local candidates,” Gavit said. “We’ve been trying to impact the swing states, but now we’re just calling locally to get out the vote and make sure that people don’t forget to turn in their absentee ballots or show up to the polls.”

The USC College Democrats set a goal of making 5,000 calls this election, which USC Trojans for Obama President Kaya Masler said the groups met Tuesday afternoon.

“The reason that we want to make calls is because a call means more than any kind of online advertisement or any kind of ad on TV that people can see — it’s personal,” Masler said. “We get to talk to voters about why we think this election is important to us and we get to have an honest conversation.”

To Masler, the grassroots efforts made by Americans across the country has had a profound effect on the outcome of the election.

“They talk about this election being polarizing,” Masler said. “But nothing has ever brought people together this way.”

About  66  percent of registered voters turned out to polling places in Los Angeles County,   according to Monica Flores, a  spokesperson from the county clerk’s office. Masler’s observation about voters feeling excited by the election proved somewhat true.

“I’ve seen a lot of my peers vote, especially when I walked into here. There was a big rush of people coming,” said Sean Lee, a senior majoring in biology. “Like me, a lot of them here are first time voters so they feel the empowerment to vote after all these years of watching and waiting.”

Though the county clerk’s office said turnout decreased from 2008, some voters said the closeness of the election might have motivated the people to vote.

“It’s a close election,” Dusty Black, a USC alumnus who graduated in 2012 and voted in South Los Angeles, said, “There are a lot of measures that are highly disputed and people want to get their opinions across.”

Susy Ruiz, a senior majoring in cultural anthropology, said she knew some of her peers felt motivated to vote because of polls projecting the election to be close.

“Even in the early morning, [people] came [to the polls] just to make sure their vote will be counted since they heard it would be chaotic,” Ruiz said.


Dennison Giongco contributed to this report.