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College freshman Brian Rosenwald helped coordinate off-campus volunteers for Democratic campaigns for today's elections. [Ari Friedman/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

Vikas Vidwana spent hours putting up flyers for Ed Rendell this fall. But the Wharton freshman will not be voting for the candidate today.

That's because he is registered to vote in his home state -- Illinois.

Vidwana is not alone. Many of Penn's most active campaign volunteers are registered to vote elsewhere. Most of them have already mailed in absentee ballots to other areas of the country.

But Democrats and Republicans alike maintain that their work is not senseless. They share a broad vision for this year's election, which extends far beyond the boundaries of their home districts.

"They are part of a larger picture," says Penn College Democrats President Arshad Hasan, a College senior. "This is how you build a movement."

Hasan says he feels that these volunteers are interested in working to promote party ideals rather than specific candidates.

Political Science Department Chairman Jack Nagel says that these students have the right idea.

"It is very difficult to assess individuals," Nagel says. "But a party is a little bit more reliable over the years. You know how a party is going to come down."

He also adds that campaigns can provide valuable educational experiences.

"It's a tremendous way to learn about politics and the democratic process," Nagel says.

College sophomore Rushil Rao agrees. He has attended a rally for Mike Fisher, Republican challenger to the Democrat Rendell, and has volunteered about seven hours of his time for the campaign of Jonathan Goldstein -- a Penn Law student running for a seat in the Pennsylvania General Assembly -- despite plans to vote in Florida.

Rushil says that once he got involved in the campaign process, he learned how much work it takes to become elected -- research, fundraising, flyering. He also began to realize how much cooperation it takes to pull off a successful campaign.

"When you watch TV it seems like the candidate is this far-off person you'll never meet," Rao says. "But you really work one vote at a time pretty much."

Wharton sophomore Greg Uckele has also been exposed to the amount of work citizens must do to get a candidate elected. Uckele has volunteered for Goldstein even though he will be voting in a suburban area outside of Goldstein's district.

"I've never really seen politics up close and personal, so this has been a really eye-opening experience," Uckele says.

In addition to discussing the experience campaigns can provide for each volunteer, Nagel also emphasizes the impact each volunteer can have in a given race.

"Our vote has a very small impact," he says. "But when you volunteer in a campaign you do influence dozens, scores... of votes."

College freshman Brian Rosenwald says he knows that volunteers are the critical elements of campaigns. As the off-campus coordinator for the Penn College Democrats, he organizes trips to Philadelphia suburbs where students volunteer for candidates outside their home districts.

In the process of collaborating with these campaigns, Rosenwald has learned how much volunteers are appreciated.

"If they could, all of these campaigns would like to have us working with 10, 15, 20 volunteers every day of the week," Rosenwald says.

He adds, "Volunteers are what win campaigns."

College Republicans President David Copley agrees that student volunteers are essential.

"It's absolutely critical that these campaigns have college students working for them," Copley says.

The Wharton sophomore explains that Penn students provide intelligence and man hours -- two vital ingredients for any successful campaign.

"I think they generally just believe in the ideals of the candidates they're working for and they want to make America a better place," Copley adds.

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