So reads the Diamondback article in today’s paper. I’m also told we got covered by another local paper and by NPR (scroll down to middle of the page). In the past College Park elections student turnout had not broken 50 voters total, but I counted 80 students in our march alone, and there were many students in class during the march, but that voted with assistance from our group’s candidate interviews that we gathered over a two month period, as well as our endorsements. I am very confident in saying we turned out over 100 students for the day voting in a bloc for candidates that were the strongest based on our Green Platform. All in all, we endorsed 7 out of the 9 available seats if you include the Mayor, and 5 out of 7 were victorious(see results). This includes the rare election of a graduate student candidate who was very strong on our issues. The way the city council works is there are 8 council seats and the Mayor. The Mayor votes if there is a 4-4 tie on an issue. Although we feel unfortunate that 2 of the candidates we supported didn’t win, with 4 of our standouts getting elected, along with an environmental activist Mayor, UMD for Clean Energy is expecting to accomplish a lot on the environment, responsible development, sustainable transportation, clean energy, and energy conservation over the next 2 years.
We were also very well received by the candidates, which is uncommon in these elections where students and the rest of the city clash. The candidate for Mayor Andy Fellows and a candidate for District 4 Mary Cook marched with us to the polls, and District 3 candidate Mark Cook sent some of his supporters to our rally. As the election results were announced, both winning and losing candidates expressed their appreciation to us for our group’s efforts to bring our issues to the forefront of the election. A few who went up to talk about their priorities for the next 2 years mentioned our group’s efforts, and talked about how the city needed to become a leader on green issues. In an unanticipated turn of events, I was called up to the microphone at one point to talk about UMD for Clean Energy’s efforts in the city council elections, how we achieved record student turnout, how much we had learned from interviewing the candidates, and our goals for the next 2 years.
In short, although we would like our green voting bloc to make up even larger portions of candidates votes in the future, I think that the election phase of the Green for College Park campaign has been a success in that we achieved record student turnout and involvement, our endorsements got the attention of the residents, and we brought our issues to the forefront of candidates platforms, and priorities. If the 2008 Federal elections are a teaching lesson, it’s that record youth turnout on green issues is only a starting point. Now it’s time to get things done. Notable excerpts from Diamondback article are quoted below.
“Shortly after 5 p.m., senior environmental science major Alana Tenzer was rushing into City Hall to cast her city council ballot. She couldn’t talk just then, she said — she had to “beat the rush.”
City elections rarely see any “rush” of students: Student turnout in the council races historically struggle to top 50 voters. But about half an hour later, the UMD for Clean Energy’s “March to the Vote” rally made its way across the building’s downtown parking lot, prompting cars to honk their horns and cheer along as they passed. There was an estimated 80 students in that group alone.
The students, who were joined in their movement to vote by District 4 candidate Mary Cook and mayoral candidate Andy Fellows, met at the sundial on McKeldin Mall and listened to a speech by alumnus and founding member of UMD for Clean Energy Davey Rogner about the importance of exercising the right to vote.
“This shows that students are ready to connect with the city and citizens of College Park,” Rogner said in his speech.
The group’s ability to mobilize flew in the face of skeptics, such as reelected District 2 city councilman Bob Catlin who said he doubted the rally was going to happen.
“I’ve been here for so many elections, and they always say they’re going to bring out students, and it never happens,” he said earlier in the day.
But mayor-elect Andy Fellows said after marching to City Hall with students amid a flurry of green hard hats, sign spinners and bongo drums, he felt “fired up” by the rally.
“I have been in College Park since ‘91, and this is the most involved students have ever been,” Fellows said. “They’re focusing around a global issue, but this group was smart and organized locally.”
Chief Election Supervisor Jack Robson, who oversaw District 2 and 3 voting at City Hall, said that although official counts of student voters are not tallied, student turnout spiked during the UMD for Clean Energy rally.”
“Even those who did not participate in the march were inspired by the group’s efforts.
Junior finance major Carly Bender said a compelling argument by a UMD for Clean Energy spokesperson encouraged her to vote. Bender, an out-of-state student from New York, now resides in District 3.
“We had a speaker from [Clean Energy] come to my sorority, and he explained how it doesn’t take a lot of votes to make a difference,” Bender said. “So I figured it was easy enough to vote and that my say would matter more here than for mayor of New York City or something.”
Though Bender also voted in the 2007 elections, she said she got most of her information about the candidates this year from UMD for Clean Energy’s website.
After witnessing the march, Catlin conceded that maybe he had been wrong about the possibility of piquing students’ interest.
“Maybe you can get people here for an issue, if not a candidate,” said Catlin to planning director Terry Schum.”