Student campaign volunteers reflect on experiences, importance of voting

Posted on Nov 8 2018 - 5:50am by Maddie McGee

Student campaign volunteers spent months doing campaign work that culminated on Election Day yesterday. On campus, several students worked as volunteers on campaigns to elect specific candidates in Mississippi and to support voting in the state.

Alec Ashby, treasurer of Ole Miss College Democrats, worked on Democratic candidate Jeramey Anderson’s Congressional campaign. Anderson lost to Republican Steven Palazzo for the U.S. House of Representatives 4th Congressional District race.

Ashby became involved with Anderson’s campaign because he was running against Ashby’s local congressman.

“I reached out to him on Twitter, and he brought me on,” Ashby said. “I’ve always wanted to work in politics, but I hate campaigning. However, I knew that I had to start somewhere if I wanted political experience.”

A campaigner for Larry Little holds a sign outside of the Lafayette County Health Department during midterm elections on Tuesday. Photo by Christian Johnson

Ashby said that working on the campaign ended up being much different than he expected.

“I expected to work in a field office with a laptop all day, but it’s a lot more flexible than that,” he said. “If you have a few hours a week, you can be involved in a Congressional campaign. I’d say the most rewarding part is watching other people take my candidate as seriously as I do and knowing that our work, even if we ultimately fail, has at least changed the conversation around really important issues.”

Ashby said social media has pushed students to be more politically involved.

“It’s not because candidates are actually good at social media, but because young people are holding each other accountable in a way our parents couldn’t,” he said.

In addition to students volunteering with specific politicians, some students and community members have instead aligned themselves with entire political parties.

Kloe Lloyd has worked for several campaigns and various political organizations, getting her start when she was 13 years old. During the 2018 midterm elections, she worked with the Mississippi Republican party to endorse Republican candidates.

Lloyd said her love of politics began at a young age.

“I live in a politically divided household,” she said. “I heard my parents go back and forth during the 2008 election. Something about it inspired me and made me want to form my own beliefs, and from there, I fell in love with the process of government.”

Lloyd said she has worked on many different aspects of campaigns.

“I started out knocking on doors with a candidate’s t-shirt on and my school skirt after my last class ended,” she said. “I’ve done phone banking, waved signs and worked at the courthouse on Election Day to bring the ballot bags in.”

She said she hopes her political involvement will be beneficial for her professional future.

“It has definitely helped me become more confident in myself,” she said. “It has definitely made me connections. I came from a family that didn’t have a big name, so I have made a name for myself. It has helped me become a stronger and more independent person.”

From a more local standpoint, Mary Blessey, a master’s of fine arts in documentary expression graduate student, has volunteered with Lafayette County Democrats as part of the “Blue Wave” campaign.

“With ‘Blue Wave,’ we’ve just been knocking on doors, giving information, letting people know they can get transportation to the polls if they need to which is really important,” she said.

Blessey is no stranger to political canvassing.

“I got started with this back in college. I went to Millsaps College in Jackson and my first presidential election that I ever got to vote in was 2008,” she said. “I canvassed for Obama in Jackson and went knocking door to door registering people to vote as part of Young Democrats.”

Blessey said people need to vote in order to see change in Mississippi.

Oxford residents waiting to vote on Tuesday line up around the walls of the Lafayette Civic Center. Photo by Christian Johnson

“It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t vote, how many people just sit out,” she said. “If you look at the number of eligible voters in Mississippi in past elections who stayed home and then you consider the margins that these elections are decided by, if people didn’t stay home and if they would actually go out and vote, it could change the political landscape of Mississippi. We just have to get them out there.”

Lloyd noted the importance of sharing political beliefs, regardless of affiliation. She said although she is a conservative, she considers herself to be an open-minded and understanding person.

“I think we tend to label ourselves as who is Democrat and who is Republican, and we think that we can’t find common ground. We have to remember that we are all human beings who have feelings and ideas,” Lloyd said. “I’ve heard a lot of backlash toward things I believe in, but I’ve done my part to know what I believe in and stay strong in those views. I just wish our campus attitude didn’t shut down political diversity but worked to find our common ground.”

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