Swing state students stay involved

swingstates
Photo by Diana Li.

As presidential candidates scramble to take the lead in swing states, Yale students who call those states home are struggling to influence the election despite their geographical distance.

While all students inteviewed from key swing states, such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Nevada, said they plan to send in absentee ballots, many have struggled to find ways to stay involved in their home state politics beyond just voting. While some students have volunteered for a campaign in their home states, some have decided to become involved in Connecticut’s own close elections and others have reduced their political involvement entirely.

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, at a statistical tie in national polls, are looking to swing states to reach 270 electoral college votes. Nine swing states may provide the candidates with the edge they need for victory — particularly Ohio, without which no Republican challenger has won the election.

Cody Pomeranz ’15, an Ohio native who worked for the Obama campaign this summer in Pennsylvania, has attempted to contribute to the Ohio Obama campaign from within New Haven. While he cannot go door-to-door to speak with Ohio voters, Pomeranz has used the Obama campaign’s phone bank website to get in touch with voters from his home area code.

“I can talk to them about issues that both of us care about and know about, since we’re both from the same place,” Pomeranz said. “I’m still able to have some influence on the Ohio race given how advanced the campaigns are in terms of social networking and digital media.”

Many students who were active during 2008’s elections have found that a combination of distance and less excitement around the election have caused them to lose contact with politics back home.

Elizabeth Hylton ’15, from Virginia, campaigned for Obama in 2008, former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello in 2008 and 2010 and gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds in 2009. Hylton said she feels there is less excitement in the state for this year’s elections compared to 2008, although she added that she would have participated in election efforts had she been home. While at Yale, she said she has kept up with Virginia politics and news but has not been able to influence politics back home.

Florida native Lauren Blonde ’16, who canvassed in Florida for Obama in 2008, was contacted by the Obama campaign to canvass again this year but said she had to decline since she is not currently living in the state.

Instead of remaining involved in their home states, some students hailing from swing states have chosen to become politically active in Connecticut instead.

While Alex Lew ’15 agreed that there seems to be less excitement about this election, he said that the number of people who have voted in his home state of North Carolina has been higher so far this election than in the 2008 election, according to public figures released each day. Earlier this year, Lew participated in canvassing and phone-banking against North Carolina’s Amendment 1, an amendment that defines marriage as between a man and woman.

Lew has found other ways to stay involved in politics in Connecticut, including canvassing for Senate candidate Chris Murphy. He also said he plans to travel to Maine this weekend to help campaign for the state’s marriage equality amendment.

Similarly, Hector Pina ’16 said his inability to influence the Floridian election has not stunted his interest in politics, and he plans on continuing his involvement in both local and national elections.

“I can’t really influence Florida politics from here, and in that sense, I’m detached,” Pina said. “But it’s more of a shift: Rather than being very involved in Florida politics like I was in high school, I just need to move on and become very involved in Connecticut politics and/or stick to national politics.”

Election Day is next Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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