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ISSUE 120 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/6/2006

Groups push for votes

By James McBride
Contributing Writer


Friday, October 6, 2006

On Nov. 7, millions of Americans will head to the polls to cast their vote for local, state and national political seats as well as a diverse array of referendums and initiatives. The midterm elections, so called because they fall between presidential elections, are traditionally not as well attended as presidential elections.

However, the battle for control of the Senate in a time of war and increasing national division has elevated the profile of next month's contest, in which Democrats' hopes of regaining a Senate majority revolve around six or seven closely fought races. Here at St. Olaf, the importance of the midterms has not been lost on campus political groups, which have been busy mobilizing voting efforts and raising awareness.

Many seats are in contention in Minnesota. Incumbent Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty is being challenged by the current Minnesota Attorney General and Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) member Mike Hatch. The positions of Secretary of State, Attorney General and State Auditor are all being contested, as is the state legislature.

The two front-runners for DFL member Mark Dayton's vacated Senate seat are Congressman Mark Kennedy (R) and Amy Klobuchar (DFL.) Minnesota's second Senate seat, occupied by Norm Coleman (R), does not come up for election until 2008. Minnesota's eight congressional districts are also up for election.

"This is not an election to be taken lightly," said Krista Siems '07, coordinator of the Political Awareness Committee (PAC.) "If you are choosing to vote at home, please get your absentee ballot now."

PAC is taking a number of steps to get out the vote, regardless of students’ political affiliation.

Their efforts include staffing voter registration tables outside Stav Hall every Wednesday night, bringing candidates to campus throughout the month of October, distributing information and providing rides to polling booths for those St. Olaf students who live on the other side of the county line.

The College Republicans are active as well, running voter registration tables and planning to bring well-known Republican politicians, such as John Kline and Ray Cox, to campus later this month.

"Clearly terrorism, the Iraq war and the economy are on the top of most people’s minds," said Justin Swenson '07, a representative of the College Republicans.

College Democrats have their own registration drive going door-to-door in the dormitories.

Polls conducted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press both show Amy Klobuchar with a double-digit lead over second-place Mark Kennedy, followed by Independent Party candidate Robert Fitzgerald, a 29 year-old running a low-budget grassroots campaign.

All sides seem to agree that the race is unusually important.

"The races in Minnesota will be very close and both student organizations are doing a terrific job of convincing their respective constituencies that voting in November could have a drastic effect on the American political system," said Siems. "Your vote will make a difference."





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