On April 26, people across Pennsylvania will descend on their local polling places to make sure their voices are heard in the state’s presidential primary.
To encourage people to vote, the Students’ Political Science Association (SPSA) hosted Election Palooza last month. Complete with mock elections, polls regarding the campaign issues, information on each of the candidates and more, the event was designed to educate students on the issues/candidates and encourage them to vote in the national election.
“Students are naturally interested in the issues and wish to know more about what is going on, but the pace of their schedules and their habits of not following a regular news source means that they often feel they are uninformed,” says Jacqueline Reich, associate professor of political science and faculty moderator of the SPSA.
For this reason, it was important to Reich and members of the SPSA to make sure the event was done in an informal setting as well as an open environment. Much like a town hall meeting, which allows the candidates a more private forum to help their constituents and potential supporters get to know them and their stance on the issues, students were given the opportunity to get more information by reading the posters designed by SPSA President, Kevin Taylor ’16, and by taking part in election activities such as a poll on the issues.
Focusing on some of the top campaign issues, which have been brought to light since the election season began, students had the chance to weigh in on exactly what the candidates themselves have been debating including healthcare, taxes, climate change, the death penalty, gun control, illegal immigration and the Syrian refugee crisis.
In all, 64 respondents took part in the poll. Of the participants, one was selected at random, Gabriela Mancini, a digital forensics major and legal studies minor, to win a pack of Presidential Pez dispensers featuring our four most recent presidents, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The focal point of the event was the mock election that allowed students, faculty and staff to pick a candidate from one of the two parties and vote for their choice. Unsurprisingly to Reich, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), won the CHC Democratic primary in a landslide, defeating former senator and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton (D-NY), 75-38. On the Republican side, it was Donald Trump with the win, scoring 16 votes to Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has since dropped out of the race, with 12 votes. John Kasich (R-OH) had five, Ted Cruz (R-TX) had four and Ben Carson, who has also dropped out of the race and is currently endorsing Trump, had three.
In total, 153 votes were cast.
“That tells me that people are interested in our political system and were glad for the opportunity to learn a little more about this fascinating 2016 election season,” says Reich about the high level of participation.
This is the second year the SPSA has run these events on Super Tuesday, the first won them the “Special Event Award” at the end-of-year student activities banquet and awards ceremony in 2008. This fall, the club will host a similar event for the presidential election, something that was started in the 1970s by now-retired political science professor, Sister Barbara Nolan. In addition to a mock general election, there will be other activities and, according to Reich, the Pez contest will make a comeback.
Reich believes these types of events are important to hold on college campuses, as they encourage students to let their voices be heard through the voting process, something that made all the difference in the 2008 election.
“It was young people who helped make a Barack Obama presidency in 2008 a reality,” says Reich adding that it is important for all people to vote because “voting is not only our civic responsibility, it is our great privilege.”
— Marilee Gallagher ’14