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MIT Apathy Prevails This Political Season

By Zareena Hussain
Staff Reporter

In preparation for today's national and local elections, several student groups have been campaigning, registering voters, and distributing campaign literature.

The emphasis for these groups this election season has been less on voting for a specific person or party and more on encouraging students to make an educated decision and vote.

But in spite of this year's important elections - both national and local - the overall presence of political activity on campus has been relatively low.

"We haven't done much on campus due to lack of manpower and lack of funding to attract membership. We had a poor turnout at our only general meeting this year," said William R. Schneider '98, MIT College Republicans secretary.

Another stumbling block for the Republicans has been President Clinton's commanding lead in the polls.

"Dole is hard to support given that he has such a slim chance of winning the election," Schneider said.

Voter interest has been low as well.

"We are trying to combat the apathy," said Monisha M. Merchant '99, co-president of the MIT College Democrats. "The average citizen doesn't see how [the election] affects their day-to-day lives."

Another reason for voter apathy has been the emphasis on local elections as a result of the seemingly inevitable victory for Clinton.

Most students at MITare registered elsewhere and therefore will not vote in local elections, said Steve V. Jens '97, chairman of the College Republicans.

"I like Dole, but Dole's going to lose. He'll be crushed in Massachusetts," Jens said.

Libertarian Scott D. Schneider '00 took a different view as to why voter interest has been so low. "I think interest is low because people know there's no significant difference between Tweedlebill and Tweedlebob. One makes an empty tax cut promise and the other passes on that formality."

President Charles M. Vest offered his views on election issues and voting, although he would not say who he was voting for in any races.

"As citizens, we should each vote for those candidates which we believe present the best plan for a strong future," Vest said. "In assessing candidates, I would look for a willingness to invest in the future through support of education and research. Make up your own minds, but do show that you care by voting."

Students support their party

Democrats and Republicans, however, remain in support of their respective candidates.

"Bill Clinton's more in tune with young voters. While I don't necessarily agree with everything he does, he's done a lot in terms of foreign policy, domestic issues and education," Hassan said.

"Dole is truly the better man for America. His stands on the issues, while not perfect, are at least on the right track," said William Schneider.

The political groups have been involved in a number of campaign activities this year.

The College Democrats, founded only last March, took on a get out the vote' effort this year, said Areej Hassan '99, co-president of the group.

As part of this effort, the group ran an absentee ballot drive. Members of the group distributed information via e-mail on how to get an absentee ballot and manned a booth in Lobby 10 to distribute information.

"Basically, we are trying to remind and encourage as many people to vote as possible," Hassan said.

The group held a voter registration drive the week of Sept. 24 during which time they registered over 200 people to vote, Hassan said.

In addition to on campus activities, the group worked with the Massachusetts Democratic Party to get students involved in rallies.

Some members had the opportunity to be in a commercial with Senator John Kerry, who is running for re-election to his senate seat against Massachusetts Governor William Weld. Others volunteered at the Fleet Center Victory concert at which Kerry campaigned with Clinton.

Republicans focus off campus

While College Democrats were active on campus and off, the MIT College Republicans have focused their efforts working in the offices of local Republican candidates.

"We primarily focused our activities on off-campus events. We believed that we could have a greater impact on the November elections by joining the campaigns of local Republicans than by campaigning on campus," said Michael Stanley '99, College Republicans treasurer.

The College Republicans centered on the races of Tom Massimo for state representative, Ed Teague for Congress, and Weld for Senate, Stanley said.

The group did host some events on campus. They sponsored a speech by Morry Taylor, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, last semester. They also held an informal question and answer question with Philip Hyde, GOPcandidate for Congress in the 8th district.

The Republicans also plan to unite in support of Weld at the South Station T stop at 6 p.m. this evening.

The MIT Libertarians also had an information table in Lobby 10 on yesterday.

The Undergraduate Association conducted a last-chance registration drive the last week citizens were able to register to vote. They registered about 80 people, said Sandra C. Sandoval '00, freshman class president.