Pa. youth active in state’s primary

Erica Weisburn

Finals week doesn’t deter Pitt students from campaigning

Students gather around the Students for Obama headquarters on the University of Pittsburgh campus to find out where to vote for the Democratic candidate. Caitlin Prarat | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

PITTSBURGH – On Monday, national opinion polls predicted that Sen. Hillary Clinton was leading Sen. Barack Obama by six to 10 points among Pennsylvania voters. Although a Clinton victory seemed likely, Obama supporters from the University of Pittsburgh weren’t willing to throw in the towel.

Christopher Banks, Kent State associate professor of political science, said the prediction polls aren’t reliable. He said that because Clinton’s lead has diminished from a 20-point lead reported weeks ago, either candidate is capable of winning in Pennsylvania.

Obama supporters, such as University of Pittsburgh student Marc Schutzbank, said this gives them hope.

“If Obama takes the election, Hillary’s campaign will shut down,” the junior politics, finance and philosophy major said.

Banks, however, said he doesn’t think either possible outcome will determine the final nominee.

“If Obama wins today, it won’t necessarily be the determining factor on whether Hillary is done, but it will be a large factor,” he said.

If Hillary wins, her campaign future is dependent on the margin of victory, he said. It will determine the amount of momentum her campaign will get to continue on. The candidate who will face Sen. John McCain in November probably won’t be decided until the Democratic National Convention in August, Banks said.

Even during finals week, students were still finding time to rally support for the primary election.

Matthew Nwabara, 18, of Pittsburgh said that Monday night’s Obama rally held at University of Pittsburgh’s Peterson Event Center made him believe in Obama even more than he did before. He estimated that more than 10,000 people were in attendance.

Sophomore English major Ashley Laub sat in the second row at the Obama rally and said the energy was what finalized her decision on Obama. She said she thinks most students had the same feeling.

“If all 10,000 people that were there vote, then yes, he will win,” she said.

Nwabara had a similar experience watching Obama speak.

“I think it was the final push Obama needed with independents,” he said. “I’m sure some people made up their minds after that.”

But some voters were still indecisive yesterday. Shannon Hagen, a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, was wearing three “Vote for Hillary” stickers, but said she could still change her mind before heading to the polls.

Hagen said she shook Bill Clinton’s hand yesterday morning at Market Square, so she’s favoring the Clintons right now. But she said that doesn’t mean she won’t sway in Obama’s favor at the last minute. Either way, Hagen said she takes her first time voting seriously.

“I feel like it’s a responsibility, not a choice,” she said.

Schutzbank and other members of Students for Obama, a student organization at the University of Pittsburgh, were hoping to convince undecided voters such as Hagen yesterday. They walked around campus chanting “fired up” and “ready to vote,” reminding students to vote before or after their final exams.

“This university is overwhelmingly behind Obama,” said Matthew McCabe, a junior political science major and member of Students for Obama. It’s something he said he credits to both his student organization and the Obama campaign.

Schutzbank agreed and added that he thinks the student-voter turnout will be high – and not just because the Democratic nominee still isn’t determined.

“It’s because for the first time we have a candidate who asks what we want,” he said. “This election is for us.”

Pitt for Hillary, the student organization standing in opposition to Students for Obama, didn’t campaign throughout the day, its president Lissa Geiger said. She refused to comment on why.

There were two polling locations set up on campus, one at the political science building and the other at the Allegheny County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. Registered voters living in the residence halls could vote at these locations, but were separated from the public machines in the same building.

Shawn Parry, an Allegheny County Board of Elections employee, said the polling location within the political science building was projected to be the busiest out of the 1,321 polls in the county.

“We have nine machines set up now, several more than other locations,” he said. “I also have five more machines in my car if we need them.”

But at noon, Parry said they probably wouldn’t need the additional machines because lines hadn’t been longer than 30 people.

Contact public affairs reporter Erica Weisburn at [email protected].