The University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats kicked off one of its weekly voter registration drives Wednesday with a special appearance from actor Sean Astin, best known for his role as Sam in Lord of the Rings.
Astin spoke to students and community members about campaigning at ground-level events. He also discussed his experiences with Hillary Clinton who he's known since 1992, calling her one of the most passionate and hardworking people he has ever met.
The event, held in the Michigan Union, was coordinated in conjunction with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Michigan.
Voter registration is one of several major outreach efforts coordinated by the University's College Democrats during an election year. This year they plan to hold voter registration drives every week until Oct. 11, the last day to register voters in time for the November election.
Collin Kelly, chair of College Democrats, said the group is holding registration drives to promote Democratic candidates on both local and state levels, along with Clinton.
During the event, Astin said he came to campus to encourage volunteers at the grassroots level of the campaign and remind them of their significance.
“Those kinds of people need to know that they are not operating in a vacuum,” he said. “That they have the support of millions and millions of Americans who rely on them to do that footwork … It’s endlessly inspiring to see the optimism of students when it comes to engagement and being involved in their civic life.”
The organization and coordination of celebrity events such as this is done by the Clinton campaign itself, not College Democrats, but the campaign works to coordinate with student groups in the later stages of the process, Kelly said.
Kelly said having celebrities like Astin visit campus encourages a level of excitement among student in this election cycle and compliments the more local figures that typically come to campus.
“When you have people who are really respected and well-known to come voice their opinion allows students to follow their lead and for that enthusiasm to really catch on,” he said.
For both Clinton and GOP contender Donald Trump, the youth vote will be both important, and historically, hard to get. Young people historically and consistently have the lowest voter turnout of any age group.
Students supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) over Clinton during the primary election earlier this year, helping push him to a narrow upset victory, though many students told The Michigan Daily they voted for other candidates. Young people also filled the streets of Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention in July voicing opposition to Clinton’s nomination. Protesters argued the candidate unfairly won the nomination due to the DNC’s favor towards Clinton, citing emails leaked by WikiLeaks.
Public Policy Lecturer Rusty Hill told the Daily in July he believes few students would vote for Donald Trump over Clinton, but the turnout of students will be key for a democratic victory.
“Obviously the more depressed the youth vote is, the better Trump will do in the state of Michigan,” Hill said.