(WBIR- UT Campus) Students at the University of Tennessee learned about candidates and public policy issues through a Voterpalooza event on campus Wednesday evening.
The event served to help connect young voters with a potential candidate and get them excited to vote in the upcoming election.
In the 2012 Knox County primary election, more than 260,000 people registered to vote, but only a little more than 2,300 voted from the 18-25 year old age range. Organizers with the Voterpalooza event say they would like to see that number go up for the 2016 primary election.
Miranda Gottlieb, president of Pi Sigma Alpha, helped organize the event along with others in the political science honor society. She said there has been a lot of momentum on campus surrounding the primary election and hopes the event will continue to create a buzz among students.
"I think it sets a precedent," Gottlieb said. "If we can get involved now as young voters, hopefully we can stay involved throughout our lifetime."
Students heard from candidate representatives about where each person running for the republican and democratic ticket stands on the issues. They also heard from public policy groups on everything from feminist issues to diversity.
Attendees voted in a straw poll for their respective candidates. Bernie Sanders took top honors for the democratic side, while Jeb Bush pulled away for the republican win.
The event ended with a mock debate, including students representing candidates on the republican and democratic tickets discussing issues such as the minimum wage and illegal immigration.
Thomas Carpenter, representing Bernie Sanders on the panel, said, "I think that so many people in my generation just were apathetic about politics, and I think that Bernie has kind of brought them into the conversation."
On the Republican side, Greg Butcher represented Jeb Bush. He said he hopes Bush wins the republican nomination, but regardless, he would like to see a candidate with a strong record of leadership and accomplishment.
"I think it's important for students and all citizens that registered to vote to determine the difference between talking and doing in the selection," Butcher said.
The candidates in the debate, just like in real life, did not agree on very many issues, but the students involved hope this makes the choice easier and encourages students to exercise their right to vote.
"I think that if we can keep the momentum going, we can really engage some of the students that wouldn't normally engage without all of this buzz happening on campus," Gottlieb said.