Security for Ron Paul’s LU Visit

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While Lindenwood prepares for the visit of Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul on Saturday, the security department will be working behind the scenes to make sure everything goes according to plan.

With the event open to the public and Ron Paul such a prominent figure, Director of Security Kurt Smith said he expects a large crowd.

“Parking can be limited, especially with students still being here,” Smith said. “The biggest challenge will be making sure the guests can come in safely and find a place to park.”

Smith said he has been working with Lindenwood Student Government (LSGA) President Dan Bedell to find volunteers who are willing to help direct traffic. In addition to student volunteers, St. Charles police officers will be on the scene.

“Lindenwood has hired six off-duty officers to coordinate with their personnel,” Lieutenant David Senter of the St. Charles police department said.

Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate without Secret Service protection. Republican Newt Gingrich just recently acquired protection on Wednesday. According to secretservice.gov, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is responsible for determining what candidates receive Secret Service. She must consult with an advisory committee made up of the speaker of the house, the house majority whip, the senate majority leader, the senate minority leader, and one additional member chosen by the committee.

The committee has not declared Ron Paul a “major candidate.” This decision could possibly be a result of Ron Paul’s not winning any state primaries in 2012.

LU security and the St. Charles police department have plans in place to ensure a safe environment. Officers will be standing by at the entrances to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.

“We’re making sure [Congressman] Paul can get in safely and get out afterward,” Smith said.

The political system can cause heated debates and the arrival of a controversial politician can sometimes draw protestors to the scene. Smith said he doesn’t expect any to come out, but is still prepared just in case.

“Ideally we will find a staging area for them away from the entrances where they won’t interfere with anything, but will still be able to exercise their First Amendment rights,” he said.

Anyone who is disruptive during the speech will be escorted out of the building.

Ron Paul will be speaking at 3 p.m. this Saturday. The doors to the Hyland Arena will open to Lindenwood students at 2 p.m. and general admittance will begin at 2:20.

The congressman’s arrival is likely to draw people from the area as well as attract the attention of the media. Smith believes the security team and volunteers will keep things running smoothly.

“We should have plenty of people to get everything coordinated,” he said.

Missouri Caucus Preview

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With each passing week, the Republican Party grows closer to choosing a candidate to run against Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race. The Missouri Caucus on March 17 could bring any candidate one step closer to victory.

In the caucus system, voters in a specific county gather for a meeting to choose delegates to send to the Congressional District Convention. It is the first step in a multi-step process that will lead to the State Convention on June 2, and the National Convention which will begin on Aug. 27.

“It sounds like a cumbersome process,” said J. Richman, Republican committeeman of the Northwest Township in St. Louis County. “You think, ‘How can it work together?’ But, it does.”

While most caucuses in Missouri are split into separate counties, the St. Louis area divides itself even further into townships.

“That was a request that came in through the state committee,” said Jonathon Prouty, Missouri Republican Party Communications Director. “It has to do with the significant population of St. Louis County. Traditionally, it has been split into townships for the caucus.”

St. Louis County is made up of 28 townships. The district lines are redrawn every ten years based on census data.

“The townships are the roots of the grass roots,” Richman said.

The voting process varies as do the rules for each individual caucus.

“The counties have wide latitude on how to proceed with the votes,” Prouty said.

Having the Missouri Caucus on St. Patrick’s Day has caused some committee members to be concerned about turnout. Jackson County and St. Louis City moved their caucus date to March 24 so as not to interfere with St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

DeAnn Deimeke, Republican committeewoman from Northwest Township, doesn’t believe voter turnout will be affected by the holiday.

“[The caucus] is in the morning. It only takes about an hour to an hour and a half to run the caucus,” she said.

The doors open at 9:00 a.m. at most caucus locations and close at 10:00 a.m. No one is admitted after that.

To be able to participate in the caucus, each person must be a registered voter who resides in the county or township of the caucus. He or she must present a voter ID card and a photo ID. The person must also be registered as a member of the Republican Party.

Before delegates can be selected, the voters must first elect a chairman and secretary for the caucus.

“Most of the time, it’s the committeeman and committeewoman, but it can be anybody,” Deimeke said.

The caucus chairman has the responsibility to conduct the meeting according to the agenda set by the State Republican Committee. Voting can be done either vocally with a “Yea” or “Nay” or by a show of hands.

Richman said about 30 people attended the last caucus in the Northwest Township but he has higher hopes for this year.

“We’re expecting possibly 60 people,” he said. “With the seriousness of this election, it should be bigger.”

Primary Preview

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The Missouri primary on Tuesday is open to all registered voters in Missouri. It will be the first official look at the state’s preference for the 2012 presidential candidates.

The primary will be “open,” meaning voters can chose which party’s ballot they would like to vote on regardless of their affiliation.

Republican votes will not count in the primary as the caucus on March 17 will be the true determiner. Despite this fact, Republican Director of Elections of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, Gary Stoff believes voting in the primary is a great way for citizens to express their opinions and possibly influence those who will vote in the caucus.

With the Republican ballot serving as more of a straw poll, some party leaders are predicting a low turnout.

“I don’t expect many people to come to the polls at all,” said Joe DeLuca, president of the Democratic Committee in Creve Coeur. “I don’t see any point to it.”

Stoff foresees a low turnout of Democrats as well as Republicans.

“On the Democrat side, we have an incumbent who is popular with the party, so that may discourage people from voting,” Stoff said.

John Gwalthey, president of the Democratic Committee in Airport Township, estimates a 15 percent turnout of Democrats, but slightly higher numbers for the Republican voters.

“A lot of people don’t realize there’s a lot more going on at the primary,” Gwalthey said. “It serves its purpose, especially in a challenger year. “

Though Missouri is trying to switch to a caucus system, Gwalthey prefers primaries.

“At the primaries, you hear the opinions of the everyday Joe, whereas the caucus is mostly those who are very politically active,” he said.

Gwalthey said the caucus system worked well in the past when it was used to educate the voters on the candidates and the issues. The advancement of technology has created more informed voters than in decades past, making primaries a more efficient way of choosing a candidate.

Unlike the Republican ballot, Democrat votes in the upcoming primary will count toward Missouri’s pick.

Three other Democrats will be on the ballot with Barack Obama. They are John Wolfe from Tennessee, Randall Terry from Washington, D.C. and Darcy Richardson from Florida. None of them has held a public office.

“Taking on an incumbent who is popular in his party is a very big undertaking,” Stoff said.

Many Democrats expect Barack Obama to be the final candidate. Richardson even explained in a T.V. interview that he doesn’t expect to win. He simply wants to bring certain issues into light such as the war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and the rights of the working class.

For many voters, the economy is the number one issue on their minds.

“I think everybody’s concerned about having a job,” Gwalthey said. “It’ll be about who can put the people to work.”

About the Missouri Primary and Caucus

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The 2012 Missouri voting for a Republican presidential candidate is taking a sharp turn away from tradition by holding both a primary and a caucus.

Missouri has traditionally held primaries to elect a candidate, but state legislators have recently decided to adopt the caucus system which hasn’t been used in the state since 1996.

In a primary, polls are open most of the day and voters are free to cast their ballots at any time. Those attending a caucus, however, must meet in a certain location and stay for several meetings before they vote publicly at a specified time.

Officials in Jefferson City attempted to push the Feb. 7 primary back to comply with the National Republican Party’s rule that certain state primaries could not be held before March 6. When the Missouri Congress was unable to move the date, it voted to switch to a caucus system with the caucus being held March 17. This means, however, that all votes in the primary will not count toward Missouri’s Republican nomination.

“If it has no meaning, why spend millions of dollars having one?” said Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington in the Post Dispatch. “We’re slashing budgets throughout state government, so there is just no justification for spending $6 million on what amounts to a beauty contest.”

Republican candidate Newt Gingrich agrees with such an argument and did not put his name on the ballot because of it.

“The Missouri primary doesn’t have any delegates attached to it and so this was a conscious decision,” he said at a news conference in New York.

The Feb. 7 primary will count toward the Democratic nomination, however, and any chances of the primary being used as a straw poll have been eliminated by Gingrich’s name not being on the ballot.

Auditor Tom Scheweich and former Senator Jim Talent saw Gingrich’s decision as being disrespectful to the state of Missouri.

“It is a mistake to ignore the Missouri primary as caucus goers and delegates will be influenced by the results of the primary,” they said in a statement.

Some people are unhappy that Missouri is moving to a caucus system because historically less people participate. It is a longer process than voting in a primary. Caucuses are also typically dominated by party activists and may not represent a majority of voters.

Phil Christofanelli of St. Louis, a member of the Missouri Republican State Committee, disagrees.

“I like the caucus system because I think it encourages people to get involved,” he told the Post Dispatch. “It’s a much more involved process than simply showing up and casting a vote in a primary.”

Missouri Primary Coverage

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The poll stations for the Missouri Primary were eerily quiet on Tuesday morning. In St. Louis County, American flags waved in the wind outside the 450 voting stations, yet few voters could be seen walking in or out.

“There just hasn’t been enough interest,” said a poll worker in Spanish Lake who wished to remain nameless. “I suppose people just haven’t decided who they want to vote for yet.”

A reason for the low turnout could be that the vote won’t officially count for Republicans. Missouri’s choice for a Republican candidate will not be made until the caucus on March 17. Though the Democrat vote will count in the primary, voting for Democrats may also be low. The incumbent, President Obama, is running for a second term with little opposition.

Laura Austin, 46, an Independent in Spanish Lake, voted in the primary and plans to vote in the caucus. However, she disagrees with Missouri’s decision to hold both.

“I don’t like it. I think it should just be the primary,” she said. “I think it puts more of a burden on the state, having to pay twice.”

Missouri officials have estimated the cost of the primary to be around $7 million. This does not include money for the caucus.

Andreah Gettinger, 27, of Hazelwood said that the primary wasn’t worth it “money-wise” but she felt it served a purpose for the candidates in the overall political process.

“It gives people a chance to get their name out there,” she said.

Despite the controversy over the system, both Democrats and Republicans came to cast their ballots.

“I’m not the kind of person to sit back and say, ‘Oh it should have been,’” said Vivian Ward, a retiree from Spanish Lake who voted at Bethany Church. She cast her vote for Obama. “If you don’t come out to vote, the person who you want to get in won’t get in.”

Poll workers spent the day signing in the people who did come in to participate in the political process. Many workers shifts ran from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“I get up at 3:30 and when I get home, I drop like a fly,” said the Spanish Lake poll worker quoted previously.

She said she has been working the polls since October of 2004 when her husband told her the county was looking for more workers.

State taxes pay the salaries of the workers whose compensation ranges from $100 to $130 per day (plus $30 to $65 for attending a training course prior to election.)

“We don’t do it for the pay,” said the poll worker. “I do this as a civic duty for my community.”

She said the low turnout was disappointing.

“It’s taxpayer money to pay for this election,” she said, “and if people don’t vote, it is a waste of money.”

My experience at the polls

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I’m not new when it comes to elections. I’ve been voting since I was 18, but I had never participated in a primary. The last time I voted, my polling place was alive with political excitement. People walked in and out of the doors. Red, white, and blue signs were everywhere. Several smiling people handed out campaign fliers. I expected to see the same thing at the primary. What I saw, instead, was a ghost town.

My partner for the assignment, Kelsey Rogers, and I were covering St. Louis County. Since I grew up in North County, I looked up polling places that were close to my neighborhood. I was delighted that I was familiar with many of them: the rec centers where I got my first and second job, my local library, my old preschool, my mom’s workplace.

Kelsey and I left Lindenwood around 8:20 a.m. and arrived in Spanish Lake a half hour later. I was happy to be in familiar territory. I was home. The first place we went to was the rec center I worked at last summer. When we stepped out of the car, we were greeted by silence. The few cars in the parking lot obviously belonged to employees and poll workers because nobody was going in or out. After taking a couple pictures, we decided the North County Rec Center must not be a popular place to vote and we decided to try another polling station.

We drove down the street to a nearby school and were happy to see the building was busy with cars and people. After we parked, however, we realized that all of them were either teachers going in to work, or parents dropping off kids. After the school day started, the outside of the building got just as quiet as the rec center.

The next closest polling place was the church where I went to preschool. That place was dead as well. After waiting for 10 minutes, a couple poll workers parked and started walking toward the door. I introduced myself as a student reporter, and asked if I could ask a couple questions about the election process.

“We’re not allowed to,” the woman said sternly.

She abruptly walked to the door. The man followed closely behind.

Kelsey and I waited another 10 minutes and an older woman walked out the door. I asked if she had voted and she said she had. I introduced myself again and she said she’d be willing to talk to me. She told me she was a Democrat and had voted for Barack Obama. I was happy to have gotten at least one interview in.

We drove to several other polling sites with no luck, but we snapped pictures of all the places we went to. Our memory cards were filling up with images of American flags in front of deserted buildings, but our notebooks remained fairly empty. If we were lucky, we were able to talk to one or two people at a few places.

Kelsey really wanted to talk to a poll worker but we were afraid to go inside the polls for fear of getting in trouble. We had already been told by a couple poll workers at other places that we were standing too close to the building.

I got an idea of how we could get inside a place without repercussion. A friend of my family always works the polls at my polling station. My mom was friends with her husband in college and I was friends with her daughter growing up. I told Kelsey that if we went inside and asked for her specifically, maybe she could help us out.

When we stepped inside, I saw her right away, and vice versa. She ran up and greeted me with a hug. I introduced her to Kelsey and explained our situation. She told the other poll workers that we needed help with a story for school. Kelsey and I talked to a group of four workers. They told us all about what it was like to work at the elections. They didn’t want to be named in the story because they could get in trouble with their superiors. I greatly appreciated my family friend helping us out. She really wanted me to vote, so after Kelsey and I took pictures of the outside of the building, I went back inside and cast my ballot as a thank you to her.

In five and a half hours, Kelsey and I visited 10 polling stations. I only managed to get five interviews. Kelsey got a full tour of my neighborhood while we tried to scrape together any voter we could find. Talking to people was not as hard as it was to find them.

5 story ideas Investigative reporting

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  • President Obama repealed the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Law” in 2011, allowing gays to openly serve in the military. Was this a wise decision on Obama’s part? Does this affect the military in any way?

 

  • Steve Colbert of “The Colbert Report,” after gaining support in his home-state of South Carolina, decided to run in the Republican primaries in the state under the name Herman Cain as it was too late to put his name on the ballot. Does such a publicity stunt take away from seriousness of politics or simply point out its flaws? Or was this a publicity stunt? Though he failed in his attempts, what would have happened if he had actually succeeded?

 

  • Rick Perry’s political ad that was deemed anti-gay sparked a lot of controversy and became one of the most disliked videos on YouTube. Was this one of the reasons he dropped out of the race? Is America becoming more accepting of gay rights and if so, can a candidate gain support if he his openly against such rights, especially with younger voters?

 

  • Religion seems to be playing a big part in the campaign trail with many of the candidates claiming they want America to return to the “Christian values the country was built on.” Obama was even under fire when Republicans accused him of being anti-Christian by sending Christmas cards that said, “Happy Holidays.” I remember when saying such a phrase was the “politically correct” thing to say. Now it seems it’s a crime to be anything but Christian. How do other religions feel about this sudden return to religion in politics and will this influence their vote?

 

  • It was said last presidential election that Obama gained support through social media sites. Is social media playing a part in this election? If so, how? What candidate is using this valuable medium the most effectively? Could this affect the outcome of the election or encourage more people to vote?