The 2020 presidential election will mean a variety of things for the DePauw community. It can bring out excitement for some, worry for others, and a mixture of contradicting feelings for most. As friends gather to watch the debates and ballots are mailed out, students are finding different ways to learn about, participate in and cope with the upcoming election.
A (Political) Party School
Student organizations, like DePauw College Democrats and DePauw College Republicans, are taking an active role getting students involved with this election. Each group expressed their dedication to informing young voters of their respective parties.
The president of DePauw College Republicans, senior Abigail Lodge, explained the organization’s plans for the coming weeks. The group will hold weekly one-hour meetings where members can have open discussions about whatever is politically relevant that week.
“What is going to be really important for us with this upcoming election is educating ourselves to make sure that the vote that we are placing is made out of an educated decision, not just based off of feelings and emotions or going with what one has always done,” Lodge said.
Lodge emphasized the importance of understanding the power behind a vote. She stated that, in these coming weeks, her organization will continue to encourage their members and the DePauw community in general to vote. “What I would say is very important is that students recognize their importance,” she said.
DePauw College Democrats have, similarly, been working with its members and DePauw’s students to prepare for the election. The DePauw College Democrats have been inactive for some time but returned to campus in light of this year’s presidential election, according to new president, junior Colleen Janes. “This is probably the most important election of our lifetimes and it’s really important that we are all engaged with it,” Janes commented.
In order to further this mission, DePauw College Democrats held a voter registration drive for members of the DePauw community to ensure that people are able to get involved in the election. This, though, was a challenge as “COVID-19 has made tabling super difficult these days” according to Janes.
The organization has also worked closely with DePauw’s Hartman Center for the “Paws to the Polls” initiative which, as Janes stated, is another effort to increase student involvement in the election.
Both DePauw College Democrats and DePauw College Republicans, while taking their own unique approaches to engaging with their audiences, recognize the power of sharing resources with members and students. Lodge described that the DePauw College Republicans’ highlight the importance of critical thinking while voting, and understanding that there is still room for individual thought within the party. Janes expressed that DePauw College Democrats have been sharing resources which inform people on the lesser known aspects of voting such as down ballot candidates.
The Student Impact of This Election
The 2020 election between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden has proven to be intense and quite divisive. With the stress of challenging courses and COVID-19 hanging over the heads of DePauw’s students, it’s worth discussing the effect that this election will have on them as November 3rd approaches.
Many students have been utilizing this time to inform themselves and encourage others to do so as well. Sophomore Sophia DiBiase described watching the first presidential debate in her apartment with her housemates. Doing this allowed them to “sit down together and share our opinions in a comfortable setting” she said.
Janes mentioned the importance of looking after oneself during this time. “This is an emotionally charged election,” she said. “It goes far beyond policy. This is truly a vote about morals and decency so the result will be emotional.”
She explained that students should know that intense and emotional reactions to the outcome of this election are not only expected, but are normal. “If you feel like you need to take a day or a week for yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out to your professors and bosses. Self care is very important at this time,” Janes said.
The idea of open communication and remaining grounded is another aspect of the election that Lodge urges students to remember. “It’s gonna be important to have these conversations and have dialogue between students to further foster our community rather than further divide it,” Lodge said.
Lodge recognized how polarizing this election has been and will continue to be and said that “coming together as a group and as citizens to support one another” will be most important.
Many Ways to Vote
Voting while in college can be difficult, as many students study at schools outside of their home state. This obstacle, combined with the unprecedented amount of mail-in votes expected this year, can make the process somewhat hectic. DePauw students have had the task of figuring out which method of voting will work best for them this year.
DiBiase, an Illinois resident, explained her plans to vote. “I’m voting by mail since I’m on campus and away from home,” she said. “I haven’t gotten my ballot yet, but it is in the process of being mailed to me.”
Other students, however, have opted to register to vote in Indiana in order to vote while at school. Sophomore Maggie Westover intends to vote in person on November 3. After having voted in her home state of Illinois for the primaries earlier this year, Westover wasn’t sure what to expect when voting in Greencastle. “Switching my registration was kind of hard, but the people at the Putnam County voter registration place were really helpful,” she said.
Another reason that voting in this election might be a challenge this year is because, for many students, this is the first presidential election they are able to vote in. Some students will even find themselves voting for the very first time in the coming weeks.
DiBiase, a first time voter expressed some frustration with the process of getting her ballot approved and sent to her. “It’s kind of annoying but it has to be done,” she said. “Plus we’re in a pandemic, so it it what it is”