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A St. Mary’s College of Maryland professor is answering television personality Stephen Colbert’s super PAC with one of her own that aims to boost the number of voters in Southern Maryland.

Professor Susan Grogan said she founded her super political action committee — called We Just Want Stephen Colbert To Come To Our College Super PAC — to teach her students about voting and elections.

Grogan said her group works in a decidedly nonpartisan basis and has a primary goal of getting people to vote, especially during the next three weeks by registering voters in Maryland’s 5th Congressional District before the Oct. 16 deadline at more than a dozen off-campus locations. The group will also encourage registered voters to sign a pledge saying they will cast votes on Nov. 6.

“Voting is more than about winning,” Grogan said. “It is a ceremony and a formal investment in our country and political process. It is a right that also grows weak and suffers when not exercised.”

The professor formed the super PAC this summer in part to help her students understand the differences between legal political influences.

A PAC, for instance, generally raises money and makes contributions to campaigns of political candidates or parties. Contribution amounts are limited to PACs at the federal level and cannot come from corporations or labor unions.

A super PAC, however, has no such limitations on contributions or spending and can campaign independently for candidates for federal office. Both are overseen by the Federal Election Commission.

Some other organizations fall under the purview of the Internal Revenue Service and require even less disclosure of who makes contributions, she said.

Grogan’s super PAC website lists dozens of student blogs related to voting as well as other election information organized in three categories based on courses taught by Grogan: Introduction to Politics; Law, Courts and Judges; and Parties and Election.

This year, 79 St. Mary’s College students earned certification as voter registration distributors. They were trained by Linda Knott, administrative assistant for the St. Mary’s County Board of Elections, who noted that those certified cannot attempt to influence how those newly registered will vote.

Among the college students trained to register voters is Nicole Zimmerman, a junior from Howard County.

She is also one of about 10 students signed up to be election judges in St. Mary’s in November.The 20-year-old said that endeavor is a bit intimidating, but she is looking forward to serving at Park Hall Elementary School on Election Day. “I do think it’s very important that people sign up to be judges,” she said, adding that they help pull the weight of the election. She said that her professor’s super PAC is an exciting way to teach about voting and elections.

While she does not have any expectations that Colbert will actually come to the St. Mary’s campus, she said, “It would be pretty cool if he did,” adding that the name of the super PAC is bound to get his attention.

To focus attention on the rise and influence of super PACs, the star of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” formed Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, a super PAC that raised more than $1 million from viewers. Colbert also encouraged students to form campus-based super PACs, largely motivated by a treasure hunt he designed to find a silver turtle. The campus that found the turtle would receive a visit from Colbert.

Grogan hoped that her super PAC would focus on nonpartisan "good works" such as voter registration drives. “I wanted to remind people that a super PAC can be used for serving and not just the political satire,” she said.

The super PAC is not funded by the college, but has received more than $3,500 in contributions from political science professors and a few college alumni, Grogan said. The money is being used for the get-out-the-vote efforts.

“Democracy is something you have to work on all the time,” political science professor Michael Cain said. He applauded Grogan’s efforts to interest her students in the political process. “It’s important to develop the habit of voting early” in life, Cain said.

jyeatman@somdnews.com

Drive to vote

To find out more about the super PAC started by a St. Mary’s College of Maryland professor, visit http://wejustwantstephencolberttocometoourcollegesuperpac.org. There will be voter registration drives at the following locations prior to Oct. 16, the last day to register to vote in Maryland:

- Saturday, Sept. 29: at Ridge Supermarket from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Giant Food in California from 1 to 5 p.m. and Giant Food in Lusby from 1 to 5 p.m.

- Sunday, Sept. 30: from 1 to 5 p.m. at McKay’s in Leonardtown, McKay’s in Charlotte Hall, Walmart in Waldorf and at the Annapolis Mall near Maggie Moos in the food court.

- Thursday, Oct. 11: from 1 to 5 p.m. at Walmart in Dunkirk.

- Saturday, Oct. 13: from 1 to 5 p.m.at McKay’s on Great Mills Road, Giant Food in California, Giant Food in Lusby and Kmart in Prince Frederick.

- Sunday, Oct. 14: from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kmart in Prince Frederick, Walmart in Waldorf and Giant Food in La Plata.

- St. Mary’s Votes will be coordinating voter registration on the St. Mary’s College of Maryland campus with events likely to take place Oct. 6, 7 and 12.