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Student vote proves potent

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It’s not very often that anybody gets to say this, so pardon us while we relish this opportunity:

Student voters made a huge difference in elections Tuesday.

A look at the results of the April 5 local election results for the First Ward — which includes hundreds of Northwestern students — reveals that newly elected Ald. Cheryl Wollin edged out her opponent, Judy Fiske, by a mere 89 votes; a narrow victory. Meanwhile, a breakdown of the vote shows that in all but one of the First Ward’s precincts, the vote tally was nearly split between Wollin and Fiske.

But here’s the kicker: In one precinct — the Parkes Hall polling place, where NU students voted — Wollin won by an astounding margin: 217-15.

Put differently, the NU students who voted at Parkes Hall tipped the election in Wollin’s favor. The lesson is clear: In a close race, the student vote can be a powerful force. Wollin recognized this fact, reached out to students and won. Fiske sneered at this fact and lost.

The comments from Mimi Roeder, Fiske’s campaign administrator, sum up Fiske’s dismissive attitude toward students Tuesday night when she said, “We are really disappointed in the university’s tactics about getting students to vote who are not permanent residents.”

What nonsense. Students may not be permanent residents, but they are a permanent presence in Evanston. And the students here have as large a stake in this city during their time here as any long-term homeowner. What Fiske — and many others in Evanston — fail to realize is that when students vote, they vote not just for themselves, but for every student who passes through this campus. Students should, and must, participate in local politics.

Now that students have shown they can make a difference in elections, they have sent the message to the city that students must be taken seriously as a political force.

We congratulate the Associated Student Government for its part in getting students to the polls. But now that elections are over, the awareness that arose from them must not be allowed to atrophy. It’s up to students to maintain a grassroots-level political relationship between NU and the city.