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Battleground Ohio

October 25, 2012

Faculty experts and candidate visits turn Ohio State into an election lab for students.

Battleground Ohio

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan plays a leisurely game of bean bag toss at an Ohio State football tailgate. President Barack Obama stops by Sloopy’s Diner for a casual chat with students.

Ohio's battleground status makes it "the destination for anyone running for president," says Ohio State’s Kevin Freeman, who oversees the Politics, Society, and Law Scholars program.

Throw in nationally recognized faculty experts and campus becomes an election laboratory. It's the perfect place for students to get a front-seat view of the democratic process, whether by meeting candidates or registering new voters.

Elections 101

"The whole nation is watching, and students are charged with being informed and letting their voice be heard,” says Alfred Yates, a senior Communication major who is active in the non-partisan OSU Votes voter-registration project.

Yates credits Ohio State professors for "encouraging students to think about the roles we play, to connect our interests with our intellect, and to critically analyze the messages, debates, or advertisements we come across."

Freeman, for instance, hosts mock presidential debates, where students portray the candidates, getting help from local Democratic and Republican strategists.

“As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.”

Ohio’s importance draws not only candidates, but also plenty of media attention for professors who are leading experts in their fields, from election law to political science.

Distinguished University Prof. Paul Beck recently told NBC Nightly News "Why Ohio matters" and has discussed how the candidates' positions on China relate to Ohio voters on National Public Radio. At Moritz College of Law, Prof. Dan Tokaji  and Prof. Ned Foley are among the country's top election law scholars. (See a list of their media interviews, including C-SPAN and CNN.)

Students' voices are heard, too: Ohio State's Niraj Antani and Krystina Hollowell spoke to PBS Newshour about the youth vote in swing states. (See what students say about the importance of voting.)

Election Central

The best place for election-day obsessives to find out what's happening at the polls? Election Central, where law students work alongside election law experts to answer legal questions about polling, early voting, and provisional ballots--highly detailed topics that could determine the next president, in a tight election.

That night, Ohio State students will gather at the Ohio Union for an election-night viewing party, where faculty will be on hand to explain the evening's events.

No matter the result, Yates says, election season has been a valuable learning experience, in line with why he became a Buckeye in the first place.

"Students come to Ohio State to define who they are as adults, shape their ideas and beliefs, cultivate their passions, and ultimately learn how they can contribute to society," he says. "This is all part of Ohio State's motto, Education for Citizenship."