VoteSmart Challenge '08

Mix a highly charged presidential contest, an historic level of voter registration among young people, and a high-tech set of voting tools for taking the political temperature of an auditorium full of college students, and you have Dominican University of California’s VoteSmart Challenge ’08.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held October 23 from 9-11 a.m. in Angelico Hall. The University has suspended classes for the morning in order to enable students to participate in the VoteSmart Challenge ’08.

“Our goal is to educate Dominican’s student body, as well as the general public and local high school students, while creating a highly-participatory forum about key policy issues," said Dominican University of California President Joseph R. Fink. "We also want to reinforce the importance of being knowledgeable and involved in the electoral process."

Six student/faculty teams have spent the past four months studying the Democratic and Republican parties’ positions on the economy, foreign policy, ethics, health care, education, and the environment. Each research team will describe the policy issue and the different candidates’ positions during a 10-minute audio/visual presentation.

After each presentation, National Public Radio (NPR) ombudsman Alicia Shepard, Barack Obama campaign finance co-chair Tony West, and Republican party representative William Grayson will add comments.

Then, using real-time digital polling keypads, audience members will vote on each policy issue, prompted by a set of pre-selected questions based on the presentation. Audience responses will be immediately calculated and real-time results will be shared.

The technological aspect of the event will appeal to younger voters.

 “Organizations like Rock the Vote and Declare Yourself are successfully using technology to get young people interested in the political process,” Fink said. “Real-time voting technology will enable us to take the political temperature of our audience at a time when the youth vote is expected to play a major role in determining our country’s next president.”

The VoteSmart Challenge ’08 will focus on the policies rather than the candidates in order to encourage the members of the audience to consider their vote based on issue rather than party affiliation.