VoteSmart Challenge 2012 makes positive impact

Educating students about key policy issues and reinforcing the importance of being knowledgeable and involved in the electoral process was achieved at Dominican University of California’s VoteSmart Challenge ’12 on October 23 in Angelico Hall.

VoteSmart Challenge ’12 was designed to be both informative and entertaining. Four student teams covering the issues of energy, foreign policy, the economy, and college access/affordability gave an overview of each issue, why the issue is important, and what the two main party presidential candidates propose to do about each issue if elected.

Dominican worked with debate teams from Dominican’s exchange partner institutions in votesmart-button.jpgGreece and Thailand to involve international students in the event. With the support of the International Debate Education Association (IDEA), students at Assumption University in Thailand and Deree, The American College of Greece, submitted questions to the Dominican audience and participated via live stream and taped videos.

Using real-time digital polling keypads, audience members (including more than 60 San Rafael High School students)  voted on each policy issue, prompted by a set of pre-selected questions based on the presentation. Audience responses were immediately calculated and real-time results will be shared.

Asked the question "After Watching Presentations Are You More Or Less Likely To Vote On November 6," 79 percent in the audience of about 400 who voted on their digital polling keypads replied "More."

Asked "Are You More Likely To Talk About The Election With Friends and Family After Attending VoteSmart 2012," 72 percent of voters responded "Yes."

The event focused 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, said Alison Howard, assistant professor of Political Science at Dominican.

“The peer to peer format is particularly important for engaging young voters in the political process,” Howard said. “While many voters will make their decisions based on candidate attributes (personality, likeability) issues do matter in elections. This is our opportunity to educate and inform our campus community about the issues that face the U.S. and what the two major political party candidates propose to do if elected.”

Dominican partnered with IDEA after the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) invited Dominican to lead an international project focused on stimulating international student involvement in civic engagement.

The VoteSmart Challenge ’12/IDEA partnership is a pilot program due to expand in future years, said Kati Anderson Bell, Director of Dominican’s Global Education Office. The students at DEREE and Assumption will submit questions to be asked during the four presentations. The students from Deree also will watch VoteSmart Challenge ’12 live in order to view the real-time results. The students from Assumption, who all are part of the Assumption International Debate Society, will submit a taped video greeting.

The University’s VoteSmart Challenge has become a tradition at the University.

In 2008 Dominican created the VoteSmart Challenge to help students, faculty, staff, and community members learn about important policy issues related to the 2008 election between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

In 2010, the VoteSmart Challenge was held in response to California Gubernatorial Election between Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman. The third and final gubernatorial debate, moderated by Tom Brokaw, took place on Dominican campus at Angelico Hall.


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Sarah Gardner, 415-485-3239, [email protected]