The Gustavian Weekly

Gusties vote: 2020 Presidental Election edition - As the nation waits for election results, Gusties share the importance of political involvement - The Gustavian Weekly

By Emily VanGorder - Staff Writer | November 6, 2020 | News

College students across the United States are typically an untapped resource when it comes to presidential elections. Many students don’t vote because they aren’t sure how to, because they distrust political parties and are suspicious about the legitimacy of election results, and because they experience numerous large life changes which can overshadow voting responsibilities. However, this year more efforts have been made this year to encourage students to vote and become more civically engaged.
“Honestly, we all have our different views but at the end of the day we are in a democracy and the only way to keep that going is by exercising our right to vote. Telling students to get out to vote, [regardless of] who they vote for, is the only way we protect our democracy,” Junior Regina Olono said.
Olono is the President of Ignite, and is involved in a number of other organizations on campus, including Student Senate, Model UN, Students for Reproductive Freedom, A Moment of Magic, and the Organization for Latin American and Spanish Cultures (OLAS). She is also currently assisting Democratic nominee Dan Feehan’s campaign for Congress.
“As a queer Latina woman, I’ve experienced a lot of instances of homophobia, sexism, and racism. Getting a lot of hatred made me step up and advocate for those that are like me, because I know not a lot of people do that, especially when they feel so repressed and underrepresented… I also plan to run for public office one day. It fuels me to fight for the little guy… but it’s rough out here,” Olono said.
Senior Carter Grupp also worked on political campaigns back in 2018. He worked at the State Fair representing Republican candidate Jeff Johnson for Governor, as well as for the marketing campaign of Doug Warlow, who was the Republican nominee for attorney general.
“I think a lot of my involvement, especially on Doug’s campaign, had to do with my interest in law,” Grupp said.
Going forward, Grupp is interested in municipal government and the potential of attending law school.
“Last summer I secured an internship with the city of Minnetonka to do residential real estate appraisal. However, one of the first things to go when the pandemic came was internships. At this point I’m still looking for good opportunities in regards to a long term future in law and politics, but I’m open to all avenues the major entertains,” Grupp said.
Ignite is a new campus organization, designed to bring more women- identifying people into politics. It is a nonpartisan group, which has made reaching out to encourage students to vote somewhat difficult given the divisive nature of political elections. Other groups, such as the PAs and CAB have been active in encouraging students to vote on campus and across social media platforms.
“We’ve been working with the Voter Engagement team to get more information out on how to vote, [and] how to do absentee voting. We’re trying to push more information and any opportunities that come forward, but we’re sticking to that nonpartisanship,” Olono said.
“For Ignite, we’ve had a lot of engagement with our posts, and more people joining our meetings…. Because it is so polarized and because this is such an important election, I feel like more Gusties are being encouraged to vote,” Olono said.
“My interest in politics began at the end of high school… As a freshman, I was a part of the College Republicans and Turning Point USA. However those groups have fizzled out on campus, and their numbers have dropped. I was dissatisfied with leadership. I don’t want to blast my peers, but I was dissatisfied with members of the group, so I chose not to make that a big part of my life,” Grupp said.
“I find that many on campus tend to hold more leftist ideologies than I do, and at times it’s hard to find people who think similarly to me on campus, but they’re not absent on campus… It’s good to have political conversations on campus, it stimulates growth and it normalizes politics…. I think our professors do a good job in keeping a neutrality in regards to political positions, and I think that participation is not limited to any type of partisan affiliation on campus, which I really support,” Grupp said.
While tabling for the Gustavus Democrats, Olono has noticed an increased student presence and interest in participating in this year’s election. However, there are increased worries about the presence of fraud within the election and the state of the American democracy.
“A lot of people are worried that our election won’t be free and fair, which is a pillar of our democracy. Personally, I’m not worried, because I know that we have a lot of institutions in place and a lot of people advocating for us, but I do understand why [others] are anxious” Olono said.
“I’ve seen that a lot of young people, especially generation Z, are very passionate about this election” Grupp said.
“This [year] was my first time voting and I thought it was very important to go out and do my civic duty of electing a president who acts in the best interest of the people” Junior Habeke Bekele said.
The days before an election are always filled with anxieties felt by voters on both sides of the political aisle.
“I think the people in office right now should really be doing more to assure us that there won’t be any fraud within the election. I think they haven’t been calming people’s anxieties, and the media has been making that worse. I definitely think St. Peter needs to step up in that area, informing [their] voters, letting them know that it will be okay” Olono said.
“People are on edge. The amount of conversations that have either directly or subtly led to the election and the results all have come up one way or another. Just last night I returned back to my apartment after dinner to find the TV turned on to the polling results, similar to when COVID-19 was just emerging and so much information was being released. Every tweet, Facebook post and news release created an abundant amount of information that can be very detrimental to consume all at once,” Bekele said.
According past electioon results, The St. Peter area displays a varied spread of political affiliations. St. Peter and the surrounding Nicollet, Mankato, and North Mankato areas have historically been split about 50/50 regarding political affiliation, though according to The Assoicated Press voters from Minnesota as a whole are leaning more liberal this election season.
“In St. Peter, neighbor to neighbor you’d see Democrat lawn signs next to Republican lawn signs… even in the same neighborhood, each neighbor has a different affiliation… it’s not just one way or the other” Olono said.
Cities across the United States have been preparing for potential violence and riots after the results of the election are announced.
“I know in the cities businesses are boarding up their places just in case riots happen. People are very nervous” Olono said.
This can be seen especially along Lake Street in Minneapolis, which was one of the most damaged by riots after the murder of George Floyd in May. Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety John Harrington has stated that the department is accelerating plans for taking care of potential unrest and violence after the election.
“I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and noticed a page I follow posted a video. It showed downtown DC having to board up the windows of all downtown buildings in preparation for rioting. To me, that’s very saddening. Yes, preventing damage and vandalism is smart but the extent in which the government and private entities go to predict such violence is quite frankly scary,” Bekele said.
Going forwards, Grupp hopes to see more students and young voters realize that their votes matter.
“If you look at anything in regards to this election, I think we’re finding that your vote does count. Even today, they’re still counting ballots in [states] where it’s come down to a few thousand votes. The notion that your vote doesn’t matter needs to be dispelled. There may be instances where you feel like your vote means significantly less, for instance, my vote in the state of Minnesota, which has hardly ever voted red, but with enough mobilization efforts, you can make your voice heard almost anywhere in the United States,” Grupp said..

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