Local Rock the Vote event to draw statewide candidates

Students at the University of South Carolina Beaufort are pairing music with politics this month to get young voters excited about the Nov. 2 elections.

They've invited state and local politicians to share the stage with local bands Oct. 28 for a free event called Rock the Vote.

So far, the event is shaping up to be bigger than student and organizer Taylor Mason expected, with several politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, planning to attend.

Among the candidates Mason said he expects are: Republican Nikki Haley, governor; Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-West Columbia, 2nd Congressional District; Democrat Rob Miller, 2nd Congressional District; Democrat Ashley Cooper, lieutenant governor; and Republican state Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, House District 124. All are up for election this year, although Erickson is running unopposed.

"I'm really excited (about) it," said Mason, vice president of the Student Government Association and chairman of the school's College Republicans chapter. "I definitely want it to be as big as it can be. I want people to come and show their support for whatever candidates they support."

Mason said there are number of new voters at USCB, and he wanted to bring candidates in to help students make informed decisions. In a registration drive this year, student organizations registered 120 new voters, he said.

Mason is thrilled politicians are making room for USCB in their schedules the week before Election Day.

"This will really empower the students to know they do care about what we think," he said.

Erickson, an alumnus of USCB, helped students contact candidates and said she has been impressed by the students' energy and interest in local, state and national politics. Candidates, she said, will benefit from speaking with members of a younger generation.

"Collegiate involvement gives a voice to concerns of that age group," she said. "They are voters, and they have concerns that are different from, maybe, the people in my neighborhood."

Candidates will speak at the event, which also includes Halloween-themed activities and food at the school's campus center and dining hall, Mason said.

It's open to the public and Mason hopes residents of all ages attend.

Though the event shares a name with the national nonprofit Rock the Vote, the local event is not affiliated with the national organization, Mason said.