University News

Students follow campaign trail to New Hampshire

Campaigners canvassed, phone banked, planned events to bring in ballots for Sanders, Clinton, Fiorina

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Students gather in Wilson to watch primary results. Campus student groups supported both Democratic and Republican candidates in New Hampshire, working to increase voter turnout.

While Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, and Donald Trump may have won their respective primaries Tuesday night in New Hampshire, the many campaigns on both sides could not have been run without the support of student volunteers — including many from Brown — who spent their weekends canvassing through the snow to increase voter turnout.

Their efforts were not lost on New Hampshire voters. New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner predicted that turnout for the primary would be 62 percent in New Hampshire this year, up 31.4 percentage points from last election season’s 30.6 percent voter turnout.

Students represented Hillary Clinton, Sanders and Carly Fiorina as they canvassed door to door, operated phone banks and planned events to garner visibility for their respective campaigns.

Some polls in New Hampshire opened Tuesday at midnight for the earliest voters to fill out their ballots for the 2016 presidential nominations. While campaigning, the students primarily talked to voters in a last minute push to “get out the vote,” said Elena Saltzman ’16. The close race in Iowa demonstrated the importance of just a few voters, she added.

The Iowa caucuses energized Sanders’ campaign, said Roro Oshobe ’19, adding that the close run between the top two Democratic candidates increased interest in the election.

Buses drove students from Brown’s campus to New Hampshire Saturday for Sanders’ campaign, Oshobe said. He numbered among the group’s eight campaigners. They split up into teams — some students out in the community knocking on doors and others manning stations at phone banks.

Through campaigning, students made connections with voters in the state, using “different avenues to build a personal connection with the voter,” Oshobe said. In order to better connect with voters over the phone, he adopted a more common name — James — and spoke with a southern accent, he said.

Oshobe added that when talking to voters, he had to work “through that resistance that they have towards political campaigns and just get them to go out and make their voice heard.”

Brown Students for Hillary sent seven student volunteers to New Hampshire, where they divided their time between canvassing and phone banking, Saltzman said. Seven students can have a huge impact as they contact hundreds of potential voters throughout the two days, she said.

Emma Dickson ’16 said she had a long conversation after calling a woman who supported Clinton; they related with one another some of the topics that would affect them positively if she were to become president.

In addition, students supporting Clinton’s campaign had the chance to meet Cecile Richards ’80, president of Planned Parenthood, who thanked them for the work they were doing.

Kelly Conway ’18 joined up with the Fiorina campaign Saturday in New Hampshire and planned to stay through the end of the primaries. She became interested in Fiorina after writing a paper about her last semester and volunteered with the campaign over winter break.

In addition to phone banking, Conway said she hoped to help plan events and rallies while in New Hampshire, as she had throughout her work with the team in the winter. While attending and planning these events, Conway heard Fiorina speak several times. “You really get a feel for her as a person,” she said.

Fiorina’s campaign was less successful than others — she finished seventh in the Republican primary — but other campaigns felt confident going into Tuesday night’s primaries.

“We’re feeling optimistic,” Oshobe said. Brown University Students for Bernie is planning events with various groups on campus for later this semester, he added, taking “the enthusiasm and energy people have for Bernie and getting it out to generate support in the community.”

Conway added that these past few days have demonstrated the energy and excitement surrounding Fiorina’s campaign.

“When you’re in the campaign office you would think she was a frontrunner,” Conway said. “When you go out and talk to people, they say, ‘Oh, she’s still in the race?’”

Yet Fiorina’s team carried their passion forward to make “sure the final push is really visible,” she added.

Despite their differing political views, students enjoyed the chance to meet up with other campaigners who are “just as passionate about the election,” Saltzman said.

Many students have been phone banking around the clock from their dorm rooms or lounges to get the last few voters possible out to support their candidates. “We’ve been eating, sleeping and breathing this since we’ve come back” from winter break, Dickson said. “It’s well worth it.”