Brevard Community College
Brevard Community College Example Campus Vote Initiative Program
Brevard Community College
Model Practice: Brevard Community College Student Organizes “Political Action Day”
Toni Elkhouri just finished her associate’s degree in general studies at Brevard Community College. But she isn’t leaving just yet. An organizer of the group Civic Rock, Elkhouri conceived of and took the lead in orchestrating a “Political Action Day” at Brevard earlier this spring. Now, she’s temporarily delaying plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in government and sticking around long enough to help plan “Political Action Day 2, ” which will be held in early October. She expects the next event will be even bigger than the first.
As a volunteer for Bill Bradley’s presidential campaign, Elkhouri discovered that one of the things that kept her and the other volunteers energized and motivated was having real contact with the candidates. She believed that the same principle might hold true for voters: that contact with the candidates would result in more interest and enthusiasm for the issues and the campaign.
“Political Action Day” was organized from start to finish in just three weeks and attracted 70 local political candidates, representatives from six political parties, and approximately 60 organizations. The day provided an opportunity for approximately 3,000 people (Brevard students, community members, and approximately 500 high school students) to listen to speeches, attend open forums, ask questions about political parties and organizations, and meet and converse with candidates. Attendees were also encouraged to register to vote. Approximately 300 new voters were registered at the event.
Elkhouri reports that Civic Rock collected contact information from newly registered voters and asked their permission to contact them prior to elections to remind them to get out to vote. She believes this kind of follow-up is a key step in getting young people who register to take the next step and actually show up at the polls to vote. For “Political Action Day 2,” Civic Rock will add another facet to their goals: they will provide information for people who are already registered but who don’t know what district they’re registered in or where their polling place is located.
In an article in Florida Today (March 14, 2000), Brevard County Sheriff Phil Williams described the day as the best-attended, most energetic political event he has been to all year. Elkhouri believes that one of the reasons the day was so successful is that it was organized by students and therefore seemed relevant to other students.
In response to the oft-cited charge that college students are not interested in politics, Elkhouri says, “It’s not that they don’t care or are apathetic; it’s just that they don’t always understand [the issues or the process] and are responsible enough not to vote on something they don’t understand.” Students aren’t going to contact the candidates to say “I don’t understand, please explain.” So this event provides a forum to facilitate understanding and encourage them to get interested and involved in the political process, at least as informed voters.