The College of William & Mary is famous for being "the alma mater of a nation." Some of the College’s most prominent alumni have made their names in the political arena, including Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, John Tyler and James Monroe.
Today, the students at the College continue that tradition of political involvement. The Student Assembly, led by President Curt Mills ’13, is spearheading an effort to encourage students to vote—and to vote locally. W&M's student political organizations have bolstered those voter registration efforts, while also bringing speakers to campus and canvassing for their respective candidates.
Zachary Woodward ’14, the Student Assembly's director of voter registration, said that the organization’s main goals are to make student voter registration as easy and as accessible as possible. According to Mills, the Student Assembly has registered close to 300 students. That success is attributed in part to the new Freshman Hall Captains Program. Started last semester, the program designated a resident in each freshman hall to knock on other residents’ doors and promote voter registration. The effort ultimately added hundreds of freshmen to the voter rolls.
In addition to the voter registration push by the Student Assembly, the Young Democrats and College Republicans have been engaging students on campus as well as residents of the local Williamsburg area and beyond.
The College Republicans, led by Chairman Tyler Johnson ’13, have been busy working with the organization William & Mary Students for Romney, going door to door, hosting phone banks and inviting speakers to campus. Among the prominent Republicans to recently visit the College are Pat Mullins, chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. In addition, members of the William & Mary College Republicans recently attended a campaign event in Virginia Beach, organized by the College Republican Federation of Virginia, in which they knocked on more than 10,000 doors with other Virginia college Republicans, met with local incumbent Congressional candidate Scott Rigell (R-Va.) and heard from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.
David Branton ’13, chairman of William & Mary Students for Romney, said that college students nationwide are getting more involved this election cycle due to concerns regarding the economy, increasing tuition and other issues.
The Young Democrats have also had a successful election season. Michaela Pickus ’14, vice president of the William & Mary Young Democrats, touted the organization’s high attendance rate and successful local canvassing and phone bank efforts. Former Virginia First Lady Anne Holton met with The Young Democrats, encouraging them to continue their efforts toward re-electing President Barack Obama and electing her husband, Senate candidate Tim Kaine.
The Young Democrats have also worked with William & Mary for Obama, the campus arm of Organizing for America, to register approximately 700 students, bringing the current total number of eligible students voters to approximately 1,ooo. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 15.
“I am blown away at the amount of activism and political drive there is at William & Mary,” said Woodward. “With William & Mary for Romney, William & Mary for Obama, The Young Democrats, The College Republicans, Students for Liberty, all of these groups want to reach out on campus and get students involved in politics. There is a huge drive toward activism. I think we are very lucky to live on a campus where we value that sort of political participation.”