Obama or McCain?
By Ryan McNutt - October 16, 2008
Virginia Houk is an English and creative writing student who calls the state of Texas home. She holds in her hand a completed absentee ballot for this year’s election. The moment she finds a mailbox, she’s sending it to be counted.
“I was three months shy of being able to vote last time,” she says. “I’m pretty excited.”
She’s not alone. Across campus, Americans and Canadians alike—not to mention students from other countries—are eagerly following the U.S. presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.
Dalhousie political scientist Jennifer Smith says they have good reason to. “It’s more important than some elections have been in the past, for sure,” she says. “There are two big reasons why. The candidates are one reason—there’s no question that Obama’s campaign in particular is an historic one. Secondly, there’s truly a big difference between their policy positions.”
Although John McCain is likely to carry Texas, Ms. Houk is voting for Barack Obama, whose campaign is inspiring many younger voters.
“It’s hard not to get excited by him,” says Aaron Heiss, a PhD candidate in Biology from Oregon. “I do not agree with him on everything, but for once I feel like I am not voting for the lesser of two evils.”
Surgery postdoc Jennifer Devitt hails from Colorado, a key battleground state this election. She’s also voting for Obama. “I’ve come to realize being here in Canada what the world’s perception of America is, what a bad reputation we have,” she says. “I want that to change, and I think that while McCain could do that, Obama could change it for the better.”
Not all younger voters are convinced by Obama’s message of change. Mazie Pierce is a costume studies student from Maine. She’s still not certain who she’s voting for, but she’s leaning towards McCain. “Obama’s always talking about change, but I just don’t see where he’s got the proof or what exactly he’s going to do,” she says.
Others remain genuinely undecided. “Neither one of them has won me over yet,” says Erica Averill, a health promotion student from Maine who’s watching the debates closely to help make up her mind. “I’m looking for directness. Politicians have a tendency to beat around the bush a bit, but it’s really important for them to have clear views on the issues that they’re going to be voting on.”
While they may differ on their candidate of choice, Dalhousie’s American students mostly agree that it’s worth the effort to vote from abroad.
“It’s really important for citizens in a democracy to vote,” says David Blanchard, a biology student from Maine. “Participation is so low in elections these days. So many people don’t know or don’t care. And that’s a very bad thing.”