Group aims to inform voters after elections

By Holly Wells
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 5, 2004

Even though the presidential election ended Tuesday, a UA group is encouraging students to remain politically active in local and state elections.

The Informed Voter's Foundation, a campus club that gained Associated Students of the University of Arizona recognition in mid-October, is reminding students that elections don't just happen every four years.

Sharon Dautrich, president of the foundation, said the idea was to form a group that wasn't devoted solely to the presidential elections.

Dautrich, a political science senior, said the foundation concentrates on issues and candidates at the state and local level.

"Elections occur whether there's a president or not, there's still three years with important issues," Dautrich said.

Although the UA Young Democrats and the UA College Republicans often remain active in local and state elections, Dautrich said there is a higher level of activity in those clubs during a presidential election year.

"(During presidential elections) local elections take a back seat, activity drops off in comparison," she said.

Dautrich said people tend to forget about politics after a presidential election because local elections are not constantly in the news like presidential elections are.

Jodi Neal, an undeclared junior who is registered to vote in Pima County, said she participates in local elections, but said she doesn't think most students do.

"There's such a hype for the presidential election, and then everyone just goes back to doing normal things," she said.

Neal said to keep students involved there would have to be more media coverage of local elections.

Dautrich said the Informed Voter's Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit national organization that wants to educate voters so they can make informed decisions.

Dautrich said she fears that students aren't aware of many decisions that are made at the local level.

"If you don't know what's coming, you can't defend yourself and your interests," she said.

To gain students' interest at the local and state level, Dautrich said the foundation has had elected officials in Pima County speak at their meetings and said the group plans on having more of the same kind of events.

The group also has a weekly newsletter that focuses on a different issue or candidate each week. The newsletter is available at the meetings and is also sent out over the e-mail list, Dautrich said.

Although only six students attend the meetings regularly, Dautrich said many students have joined the foundation's e-mail list.

Dautrich said local and state elections are just as important, if not more important than presidential elections because their result is often immediate and directly influences the community.

"The makeup of the people in a specific community is very different than the makeup of the entire nation," Dautrich said, "Each community has specific issues, and the local leaders are the ones who will address those issues."

Lisa Sutton, political science junior and treasurer of the group, said many groups are encouraging students to vote but said the foundation encourages students to vote smart.

Sutton said she had not been involved in local or state elections until she became involved with the group.

"I knew I could vote, but didn't know much about the elections," she said.

Sutton said she thinks many students only pay attention to the presidential election because not much attention is given to state and local elections.

"Even the ballots for the presidential election, many students didn't know what was all on there, many would just vote for the president and not fill in the rest," Sutton said.

Sutton said the foundation does the research for students on local candidates and issues and makes the information available to them.

If students get in the habit of participating in politics at a young age, Sutton said, they are more likely to continue participating throughout their lives.

Adam Drozdowski, sociology junior, said he doesn't think students will participate in local elections.

"The presidential election seems so important to people, I've never seen a big gathering for a local election," he said.

Drozdowski said he is registered to vote in New Hampshire and doesn't plan on participating in local and state elections there.

According to an e-mail from Dautrich, the Informed Voter's Foundation meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the César E. Chávez building Room 104.