By Kayla Carr
All over Nevada, there are signs of presidential campaigns working to win over voters before the fast approaching Nevada caucuses. Some students at the University of Nevada, Reno, have embraced the caucus craziness and are working to get their peers politically engaged.
The Young Democrats is a club at UNR that is not endorsing a specific candidate but is focused on educating potential voters. Even though the club was lacking focused enthusiasm last year, it is resurfacing and reigniting with the imminent 2016 presidential election, according to the organization’s president, Kyle Sharp.
“The past three or four years, we’ve been trying to make it something, and all of the people who took leadership on it did nothing with it, and … I decided I wanted to do something with it,” Sharp said.
The club held its first meeting Sunday, Feb. 14, and is planning many interactive events. Right now, it is focused on educating voters about the upcoming election. Sharp explains what is at stake for him in the 2016 presidential election.
“Everything that President Obama did could be undone … if Ted Cruz gets elected, so we need to mobilize as many voters, as many Democratic voters, as possible to make sure that we can win the election and keep that progress going,” Sharp said.
In order to prepare students for the caucus, Young Democrats held a mock caucus last Thursday, Feb. 9, which was open to all students. The group will host the Feb. 20 Democratic caucus at UNR for the precincts surrounding the campus. Additionally, the organization is training people how to be precinct chairs who help lead individual caucuses.
Alongside the Democratic Party of Washoe County, the Young Democrats has been registering college and high school students to vote.
“My sole goal isn’t just to get Democratic voters excited,” Sharp said. “It’s to get all voters excited because … Nevada’s last election cycle had a terrible turnout and I just want to change that.”
Organizing Wolf Pack Smart Talks is yet another project on Sharp’s agenda intended to get students interested in the political process. At Friday Fest, Young Democrats asked students to tell them what issues matter to them. Sharp intends to start Wolf Pack Smart Talks on issues like abortion, global warming and the war on drugs within the month. Speakers will include professors and local professionals, and the talks will conclude with an open forum.
According to Sharp, Young Democrats will not endorse a candidate until after the primary elections, but he plans to have as many candidates as possible at UNR this semester.
“We’ll be bringing in a lot of local candidates, and we’re obviously gonna do our best to bring in some national candidates,” Sharp said.
Courtney McKimmey, the president of Nevada Students for Hillary, started the club in the fall after casually meeting with other students during the summer as volunteers for the Hillary Clinton campaign. The group makes phone calls in the evenings and knocks on doors to foster support for Clinton. McKimmey affirms the importance of her club’s interactions with students, which give members a chance to discuss how Clinton will affect the lives of their peers.
“We’re trying to reach out to students who are still unsure about who they are supporting,” said McKimmey. “Just having those one-on-one conversations and facilitating the discussion about the issues that matter to us is really how we’re trying to reach out to other students.”
McKimmey’s group answers the many questions students have about the caucus process and the candidates. She believes so much background education is necessary because many students have not been exposed to the nomination process, since the last presidential election was four years ago.
“[Students] are very excited … I think once they learn more, they are even more excited because they know how to voice that opinion and how to voice their vote,” McKimmey said.
Nevada Students for Hillary spans the whole northern Nevada region, encompassing students from UNR, Truckee Meadows Community College and even high schools in the area.
Nevada Students for Hillary has a Bernie Sanders counterpart. Paul Catha founded a student group affiliated with the Bernie Sanders campaign as an auxiliary club of UNR’s Young Democrats. Although the group works closely with the official Sanders campaign, it is not officially recognized by the Associated Students of the University of Nevada as an independent club.
“Honestly, because the campaign has moved in, [the club is] really just Bernie 2016,” said Catha.
The group has held debate watch parties and caucus trainings and also frequently tables on campus. Catha described the popularity of the group’s table, which greatly differed from his past tabling experiences.
“I think we had buttons and stickers, and just tons of people, tons of people got them, and tons of people signed up to volunteer and come to our events … it was a wildly positive reaction,” Catha said.
Sanders has relied heavily on the youth vote in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries. In Iowa, Sanders beat Clinton 84 percent to 14 percent among Democrats ages 17 to 29 and beat Clinton 83 percent to 16 percent among Democrats 18 to 29 years old in New Hampshire, according to New York Times.
“The millennials are a larger voting bloc than the baby boomers,” Catha said. “We can take the election if we wanted,”
The Pew Research Center projects that Millennials will outnumber Boomers in 2016. In Nevada, 17-year-old residents are eligible to participate in the caucuses, as long as they will be 18 by the presidential election in November.
The Nevada Sagebrush reached out to UNR’s College Republicans to learn more about clubs supporting Republican candidates, but received no response.
Kayla Carr can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.