Meet the Dartmouth College students supporting Biden’s write-in campaign

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JJ Dega, a 19-year-old student at Dartmouth College, is part of an effort to mobilize his peers to write in Joe Biden's name on Tuesday's primary election. Photo courtesy of JJ Dega.

By Katy Savage

January 22, 2024

On Sunday, Dartmouth college student Prescott Herzog distributed 4.5-by -2.5-inch cards across campus. With the help of 10 of his fellow students, they left instructions at every dorm room for how a New Hampshire voter could write in Joe Biden’s name in Tuesday’s primary election.

“When people wake up, it’s likely the first thing that they see and they can start thinking about having a plan to vote,” Herzog, 21, said.

It’s not unusual for student political leaders at Dartmouth to help other students vote. But it is unique for them to share cards with instructions on participating in a write-in campaign. 

“I really liked them,” Herzog said. “The palm cards were just kind of perfect to clarify how to write in Joe Biden, making sure that students have that and realize write-in is an actual option in this election.”

Herzog got the cards from Claremont resident Stephanie Harris, who designed them herself with a local printer. One side shows a copy of a blank ballot and the other side gives step-by-step instructions on how to write in Biden’s name. Harris is part of a grassroots campaign of hundreds of people organizing a write-in campaign for the president. The 77-year-old said she became concerned when she heard Biden wasn’t going to appear on the Jan. 23 primary campaign ballot. 

Harris, like others, fear if Donald Trump is elected again, the country could turn into a dictatorship. 

“It’s all the indictments, all the slurs, all the threats that he’s made about how he will run the government the next time around and the kind of cabinet and people he’ll surround himself with,” Harris said.

Harris, like others, fear if Donald Trump is elected again, the country could turn into a dictatorship. 

“It’s all the indictments, all the slurs, all the threats that he’s made about how he will run the government the next time around and the kind of cabinet and people he’ll surround himself with,” Harris said.

This wasn’t her first time printing palm cards to help organize a write-in campaign.

Shortly after Harris moved to Claremont from Rochester, New York, in 2020, she organized a write-in campaign for Whitney Skillen to win a school board seat in 2022.

“They were easy to hand out and made it very clear what you had to do to write in,” she said. 

“I thought this would be another situation where the write-in cards would be very significant. I didn’t expect that they’d really go across the state the way they have.” 

The Battle

Organizers of the write-in campaign know they have an uphill battle. David Scanlan, New Hampshire’s secretary of state, recently predicted Republicans will turn out in record numbers for Tuesday’s primary election. Scanlan estimated 322,000 people would vote in the Republican primary, breaking the previous GOP record of about 285,000 votes set in the 2016 Republican primary, when Trump defeated a crowded field.

Herzog, who started following politics more closely in 2016 when Trump got elected, has heard many Independent voters on campus saying they plan to vote in the Republican primary to vote against Trump. He’s trying to convince them to vote for Biden instead. 

“I talk to them and say, ‘if you’re actually wanting to vote anti-Trump, the only one that actually is anti-Trump is President Biden.’”

JJ Dega, another Dartmouth college student involved in the write-in-campaign, acknowledged the challenges.   

“What students need to know is that the primary does matter,” Dega said. “They’re trying to disenfranchise young people because they know that we support inclusiveness and democracy and individual rights and freedoms and they don’t want to see us turnout in numbers, but we are motivated to do so.”

It’s personal for Dega. This will be his first time voting in a presidential election, and he wants to mobilize the power of young voters.

“Gen Z really made a difference in the last election,” he said. “Now there are over 8 million new young voters eligible to vote in this election. We understand the stakes. I know it because I’m talking to our generation, and it’s important to get our voices heard.”

The 2024 elections are personal for Herzog, too. He said he was motivated to get involved because of his grandparents, who are immigrants from Hungary and Germany. “My grandpa from Hungary has always really talked about democracy and the ideals of America.” 

Herzog sees those ideals slipping away.

“I’ve personally found (the election) is really a choice between democracy and dictatorship and the stakes are just so consequential,” he said.

 

 

Author

  • Katy Savage

    Katy Savage is an award-winning reporter with more than 10 years of experience working in daily, weekly and digital news organizations as both an editor and reporter. Based in Enfield, Katy is a New England native and has a passion for telling stories about where she grew up. In her free time, she enjoys running and being outside as much as possible.

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