As a USC student from 1997 to 2001, this reporter found campus life full of many lively and enriching experiences. Political activism, however, wasn’t one of them.

But this Election Day marked a significant shift in Trojan political awareness, with USC College Democrats and USC Students for Barack Obama teaming up with USC Students for John McCain and the California Student Public Interest Research Group for the largest get-out-the-vote effort in the school’s history.

Most of the action happened at the Annenberg Election Center, a makeshift campaign headquarters created in the lobby of the Annenberg School for Communication building, organized with the help of the school’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, which provided free buses to polling places.

Leading up to voting day, the Unruh Institute hosted seven election policy lunches, organized by both Democratic and Republican student groups.

On Tuesday, Annenberg Election Center volunteers coordinated calls to voters in swing states while others encouraged fellow students to vote, helping them find their polling places as well as information about ballot propositions.
USC Students for Obama also organized law students to monitor polling places for any voter difficulties.

At 5 p.m., the Annenberg lobby transformed into a results watching party for all students, with law professor Kareem Crayton and Unruh Institute Director Dan Schnur, a former Republican political strategist who was communications director for former California Gov. Pete Wilson and for McCain during his 2000 presidential bid.

In the weeks leading up to the election, the Obama group organized caravans of students to do campaign work in Las Vegas and distributed voter information on campus, said media coordinator Jen Winston, a sophomore majoring in communications.

“We’re trying to create a new political identity for USC,” said Winston. “This is my first time doing anything with a political campaign, and it hit me after the trip to Vegas that it’s the grassroots efforts that really make things happen.”