At the Federal level, elections for Pennsylvania are taking place on Nov. 8 for the U.S Senator. The candidates are John Fetterman (Democrat) or Dr. Oz (Republican). There is also a State level election for Governor. The candidates are Josh Shapiro (Democrat) or Doug Mastriano (Republican). There are other local and state elections that vary depending on someone’s address. Ballotpedia.com is a great resource that will show you what is on your ballot ahead of time, what candidates are running, and what their core values are.
Assuming everyone is an American citizen, anyone is able to register to vote above the age of 18. A website that may be useful in the process of new voters is (vote.pa.gov/Register) and fill out the application. This will be an opportunity to register for the political party the individual decides to choose.
If someone registered as an independent, that individual is then unable to vote in closed primary elections. Anyone can check their voter registration online to find their assigned polling location. Registered voters are able to vote by mail, in person at their polling location or by absentee ballot. If someone requires assistance when voting in person, they can request a friend or associate assist them in casting their ballot.
For those who are new to the voting process, there are numerous voting drives on campus, both at the library and at Sykes that are there to help students. Organizations on campus are also available resources, such as the Diversity and Equity Center or the Career Center. There are also valuable resources online, such as Ballotpedia.com or 886ourvote.com.
According to Emily Hart, a student who works at the library circulation desk on campus and held a voting drive, she claimed that there is a low percentage rate for voters 18 to 24 is due to a number of factors, most of them being a matter of opinion.
Hart said, “A free democracy only works when citizens are effectively educated and supported, and I believe that is a large part of why our age group fails to show up at the polls. Voting can be inaccessible for college students who are not able to go home to vote in person, or for those who have work and classes that take up their voting time. There is a certain cynicism, or nihilism with young people around politics. The idea that it doesn’t matter, or that their vote doesn’t count anyway. The turnout rate of young adults at the polls has increased dramatically in recent elections, especially the Presidential. I believe that is largely due to the urgency many young people felt over the election. Young people were unable to escape the information surrounding the presidential election, but local elections are hardly publicized the same. Knowledge is power and being educated on elections motivates citizens to utilize their right to vote.”
The FHG Library on campus held a mini voters drive to support college students’ agency in the Nov. 8 election. There was a staff member assigned to ask students, as they entered the library, if they were registered to vote or not. If they were registered to vote, they offered Rammy themed voting buttons, sticky notes and more small prizes. If students were not registered to vote, they had a staff member, and computer there to help them register. They also created a book collection surrounding politicians, the voting process and democracy. This can be found across from the Circulation Desk in the library. No one can force others to register to vote or cast their ballots there, but they can encourage voter participation.
Hart even made a suggestion. “I think that giving citizens the necessary time off from work and classes so they are able to vote would raise turnout rates dramatically. Voting is our right, and it should be easy to do, not something crammed into a lunch break. For young people specifically, I think that educating students on current events and promoting political advocacy would encourage voter turnout. Young people need to understand how important their votes are. Our numbers have swayed elections before, and our advocacy has brought change to previous elections. Understanding that our votes matter, and that the stakes are high in every election, would help. There are those that believe politics has no place in schools, or workplaces but the reality is that politics affects ALL of us, in countless ways. Like I said before, knowledge is power and knowing what is on the table during election season is half of the battle.”
Hart added, “Voting impacts the study body on campus in a big way. If you choose to abstain from voting, you choose to be silent. Your voice will not be heard. College students always have the potential to become a valuable constituency in each election. Your vote for Governor and State Representatives affect the state aid provided to you from your school. State Universities, like West Chester University, rely on funding to support their students. Student loans, pell grants and work study programs are all federal programs decided by elections.”
Hart also said how she wanted to discuss the “cynicism surrounding voting.” She said, “It is an incredible privilege to be apolitical. I completely understand why young people can have negative opinions surrounding voting or feel defensive when engaged in conversations about elections. We live in a time of great political divide, and it is very easy to become jaded and nihilistic. The reality is that, although politics can be corrupt and anxiety inducing, it is something that affects us whether we acknowledge it or not. If you feel that your vote doesn’t matter, vote for others. Vote for your family and friends’ rights who are on the line. If you truly believe that your vote doesn’t matter, what’s the harm in voting anyway? Every single person faces the effects of elections, whether good or bad.”
She also stated how, “the rights of so many people are on the line every election season. When I arrive at my polling place on November 8th, and cast my ballot, I am casting my ballot for my human rights. I am voting for my right to abortion, for my right to healthcare, an affordable education, for culturally responsible curriculums, for my right to marriage and adoption, and for others human rights. I am exercising my right to be heard. I urge everyone who is willing and able to vote with their hearts. Too many people are affected by the outcome of elections to sit idly by. Vote!!!”
Sean Wattman is a second-year Psychology major with a minor in Journalism.