ENMU political groups plan debate for tonight

By Kevin Wilson

While the presidential and vice presidential candidates prepare for their debates, political groups at Eastern New Mexico University are working together for theirs.
A policy debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at the Becky Sharp Auditorium, featuring party platforms from the College Republicans of ENMU and the College Democrats of ENMU.
Candace Hale, the executive director of the College Democrats, said she and College Republicans President Bob Seyller have been working together on this and other projects despite the groups’ differing ideologies and views about who should win an election that is four weeks from today.
“We have a common goal to get people to vote and educate them about these issues,” Hale said, “and this was a way to do it.”
The debate is scheduled to last one hour, though Hale said it may run past that timeframe. The groups will debate about five topics: education, the war on Iraq, gay marriage, health care and tax cuts.
“We’re doing (the debate) so students can make a better-educated decision. I think sometimes they get blinded by media images or vote the way their parents did in the past,” Seyller said. “I think we’re trying to make it an independent thought process before they go into the election booth. What affects their parents doesn’t necessarily affect them.”
Seyller said that several groups are on campus to register people to vote, but that’s only a part of the mission.
“It’s easy to register to vote right now,” Seyller said. “It’s easy to sign the paper. We want to make sure those people actually get to the polls and perform their duty as a citizen to vote. And when they get there, we want to make sure they’re educated.”
Both Hale and Seyller said that they will talk about candidates’ specific stances on issues, but sticking to party platforms will better educate audience members and avoid an impression that a group of college students is speaking directly for George W. Bush or John Kerry.
“We’re speaking for our party, not the candidate,” Seyller said. “Any candidate who conforms completely to a party platform is very rare, and I’d be a little scared of that from a personal standpoint.”
In general, both felt that college students, being new to the electoral processes, tend to be the least educated about the stances of candidates, parties, and even themselves. Hale felt the youth vote would be key, regardless of whether they make an informed vote, an uninformed vote or if they decide to not vote at all.
“The youth vote could turn the election over. It’s the biggest group. There are 40 million, and if (a candidate can) get 20 million to the polls, that will turn the election.”