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October 22, 2004

MHC Students to Give Presentation and Publish Zine on Voting

By Ember Oparowski ’07

Over the past few months, three Mount Holyoke students have been conducting interviews and assembling nonpartisan information on the 2004 presidential candidates to publish in a 15- to 20-page zine. They will present their findings in a program titled “Voting Matters: Who Votes and Why” on Wednesday, October 27, at 7:30 pm in Kendade 305, as part of the Weissman Center’s fall series, The Road [Not] Taken: The Real Choices of the 2004 Presidential Election.

Victoria Blom ’06 and Heather Fraser ’06, both critical social thought majors, and Amanda Smith ’06, a Russian Eurasian studies major, have conducted 60 qualitative interviews with MHC students and local community members on the importance of voting. To gather survey participants, the students used a runoff form of selection where one interviewee would refer another person to be interviewed, and so on. They interviewed “whoever would talk to us,” Frazer said.

The participants were questioned on their civic participation, whether they thought voting was important, and whether they felt connected to the current government. Although their findings cannot be used to make generalizations about voting trends, the qualitative answers give insight into personal ideas about voting, according to Blom, Fraser, and Smith.

The question, “Does voting matter?” yielded a range of answers. Most disturbing was that numerous participants replied that they felt that voting was important, yet did not intend to vote. “People weren’t apathetic; they just felt that their vote would not effect change,” Smith said. She also noted that people felt uneducated about the presidential candidates and their platforms. This drove the trio to create a nonpartisan zine with accurate information on both candidates.

In constructing their zine, the students had to search extensively for facts. In doing so, they revealed one of the largest problems about our presidential candidates and the state of politics. “When we were creating the compilation of information on each candidate, the logical step was to go to each of the candidate’s Web sites. But when we went to the Web sites, we were struggling to find any kind of concrete information about the candidates, or any kind of tangible information,” Blom said. “Both of the Web sites said, ‘John Kerry is an advocate of the environment’ and ‘George Bush is working to improve the environment,’ but they didn’t say what’s being done.” The trio hopes that if more information is made available, people will feel more knowledgeable and will be more likely to vote.

At their presentation the students will discuss why they undertook this project. They hope for audience participation and a good turnout. For more information about the presentation and the Weissman series, go to www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/programs/wcl/fall04schedule.shtml.

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