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Council Candidates Speak at MIT Rally

By Naveen Sunkavally

With punk rock music playing in the background and classes notwithstanding, a small but vocal group of students held a noon-time political rally on the Student Center steps Tuesday.

The rally, sponsored by the student group Swass Distribution, featured several Massachusetts politicians, including state representative Paul Demakis and six candidates for Cambridge City Council, including current MIT student Erik C. Snowberg ’99.

“The purpose of the event was to attract attention to student participation in local government and voter registration,” said Eric J. Plosky ’99, master of ceremonies for the event. Students walking by the rally could also register to vote.

Students can make a difference

One of the central ideas at the rally was that students can have a substantial impact at the local level of government. A few dozen votes could be enough to determine the outcome of an election, and students not voting in elections are running the risk of having issues important to them ignored by politicians.

“You, as students, can be represented only if you represent yourself,” said Chair of the Faculty Steven R. Lerman. “Vote early, vote often, once per election.”

“What you care about is dealt with at not only a federal level but also at a local level,” Demakis said.

Snowberg, who spoke a few minutes after noon, said: “I’m trying to give students a reason to vote. Local government deals with everything you deal with on a daily basis,” from transportation and better bike lanes to affordable housing and keeping bars open later.

Kathleen Born ’77, currently an incumbent and a candidate for Cambridge City Council, said she was elected six years ago by a margin of only twelve votes. She said that Cambridge’s proportional representation voting scheme is especially favorable to minority interests.

Ken Reeves, another council incumbent running for re-election, spoke about the extent of MIT student apathy, pointing out that only nine people from MIT voted at the Johnson Athletic Center polling booth in a recent election.

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s rally, a few dozen people had registered to vote, said Plosky. Other council candidates speaking at the election were David Hoicka ’77, Katherine Triantafillou, and James Williamson.

The fear factor

“It’s good that a lot of the candidates came... A lot of them were wisely showing up,” Snowberg said.

Plosky, who is Snowberg’s campaign manager, said that the presence of several council candidates at the rally is a sign that people are taking students seriously. The event was more successful in reducing government’s apathy towards students than it was in reducing students’ apathy toward the government, he said.

The deadline for student voter registration is October 13, and election day is November 2. One of the ideas expressed at the rally is the ease with which students can register to vote. For instance, voter registration does not affect jury duty selection at all. And, with virtually no exception, it has no effect on car registrations or drivers’ licenses. More information about voter registration can be found at <http://democracy.>.

Gabe Weinberg ’01, president of Swass Distribution, said that the next event planned by the group is a speech by Phillip Greenspun in October about making MIT resources freely available to the community.