By Sarah Frazer || Staff Writer
In the days leading up to the 2016 Election, F&M’s political groups, specifically F&M Votes, College Democrats, and College Republicans, have been mobilizing students to get informed about the election and to vote. In order to accomplish these tasks, the groups have organized events for students on campus, both leading up to and on Election Day. Given the historic importance of this election, as well as the tangible impact millennials can have on it, student leaders from all of these groups feel it is a necessity for all eligible students to go out and participate by voting.
F&M Votes is a nonpartisan organization whose primary goals include registering students to vote on campus and making sure that they do vote come Election Day. This semester alone they have registered 612 students to vote. They sponsor events related to the election, politics, and news. For example, F&M Votes helped sponsor Professor of Government Stephen Medvic’s Common Hour talk on September 29 and the News Literacy Project on November 1.
F&M Votes also collaborates with College Democrats and College Republicans to host debate viewing parties and to support events where candidates have come to campus, all so that students will know the impact of their vote.
On Election Day, F&M Votes will be working with Squash Aces to let a younger generation of Americans, middle and high school students who are too young to cast a ballot, encourage students to vote.
F&M Votes will have a table in the Steinman College Center to deal with any issues students may have while voting, hand out “I Voted” stickers, and answer any questions. F&M Votes will also have poll greeters at the polls throughout the day. According to Elizabeth Reed, F&M Votes student co-chair, voting is important because “as young people, our vote actually has the power to determine the outcome of the election” and “democracy doesn’t work if you don’t vote.”
College Democrats and College Republicans have been gearing up for the election, too. The main focus for College Democrats over the past year, according to president Sean Hyland, has been “trying to build political enthusiasm” and get people on campus talking about politics. The College Democrats have also made a concerted effort to connect students with campaigns for which they can volunteer, including Lancaster-native Christina Hartman’s congressional campaign.
This past Tuesday, College Democrats organized an event for F&M students to meet Hartman, who is running for the House of Representatives, speak with her, and ask her questions. Hyland was pleased with the student turnout, explaining “there’s a clear desire from students on campus to be engaged in a major way in the political process,” as is evident in the questions that they asked. Hartman’s race, and other down ballot races, are meaningful, Hyland contends, “because the candidates that you’re voting for are the ones who really decide the laws in our society.”
As for how he thinks the races will turn out, Hyland “[doesn’t] want to jinx anything.” But if voter turnout is high, he says, Democrats will do well. More than anything, Hyland urges people to “Vote!” even if they have not completely made up their minds by election day.
College Republicans have had a bit of a different approach in preparing for the election.
According to president Nick Stolte they have been, “honestly, laying low because of Trump. Outside of that, it’s been a vitriolic election.” Given the top of their ticket, College Republicans have been focusing on down ballot races, in particular Robert Bigley’s race for the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Bigley, an anti-Trump Republican, came to F&M last Sunday, to address students and campaign for their votes.
According to Stolte, “he can resonate with people who don’t normally vote for Republican.”
Given that the district in which he is running is largely blue, this quality gives Bigley a real chance of winning. Bigley’s election prospects are largely dependent on name recognition, Stolte says, especially since he is running against an incumbent. Stolte explains that Bigley’s candidacy is critical since he “is a potential future for where the Republican party can go. It doesn’t have to be the party of Trump.”
On issues such as climate change or gay rights, “he’s a modern Republican,” but he is still fiscally conservative. No matter who is elected president, Stolte submits, he or she will be unpopular, so we need “candidates who will foster bipartisanship” and have principles.
Stolte urges everyone to vote for down ballot candidates, even if they do not like any of the presidential options, and, in general, to “vote your conscience.”
As F&M Votes, College Democrats, and College Republicans are preparing for Tuesday’s election, most students seem to be longing for it just to be over already.
Indeed, this is an emotionally charged election and people have many different opinions of it. College Republican’s Nick Stolte wants it to be over, but is not content with either option for president. As he observed: “We’re in for four long years.”
On the other hand, College Democrats’ Sean Hyland is excited because “residents of Lancaster have the prospect of electing three women to public offices in seats that have never been held by women.”
For F&M Votes’ Elizabeth Reed, she is both excited for the election and waiting for the campaign to end. She predicts, “there will be tears regardless of the outcome.”
Sophomore Sarah Frazer is a staff writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.