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The Educated Voter

Three students speak out about the upcoming Presidential election with Nicolas Anspach, Professor of Political Science: Cherish Christopher '21 (Middle Level Education - Social Studies, from York, PA), Jenna Torres '24 (Medical Laboratory Science, from Reading, PA), and Zachary Claghorn '22 (Political Science, from York, PA)
An illustration of a voter dropping a ballot in a box with an American flag on the side; text reads

A historic Presidential election will be held in November 2020, just a few months away. To increase turnout, York College is participating in two different, yet aligned, voter engagement initiatives: The PA ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and the NASPA Voter Friendly Campus Program. Many questions surround this election, including whether eligible college students will vote and make a difference. 

To answer some of these questions, Nicolas Anspach, PhD, Professor of Political Science, asked several students to weigh in on why they feel it is important to vote. Here is their conversation:

Dr. Anspach:

Is this your first time voting in a Presidential election? What would you say this election is about? 

Cherish: 
No, this isn’t my first-time voting, I voted in the last election as well. I think the meaning of this election rests deeply on your societal lens. I’m a person of color who grew up in a low-income family and in a low-income neighborhood. My family, to this day, still resides in the same neighborhood. For me, this election is about making sure that the person in office does something for people who look like me and have experienced what I have. I think that sentiment is shared across the board. 

Jenna: 
Yes, it is my first time voting in a Presidential election, but I did vote in the midterm and primaries. I would say this election is more about which president will make the country better in the social aspect. With all of the Black Lives Matter protests, it is a change the citizens clearly need to see happen. 

Zachary: 
This is my first time voting in a Presidential election and what an election it will be. It seems to me that this election for some is about doing whatever it takes to remove Donald Trump from office. Meanwhile, some would like to keep Trump in office due to the performance of the economy before COVID-19. This is only merely scratching the surface as the complexities of a Presidential election are enough to write a textbook about. One thing that I can say for sure is that this election will almost certainly lead to even more social tension in an era in which polarization has already reached severe levels.

Dr. Anspach: 

Historically, young people have a reputation for not voting. Why do you think that is? Is that changing with your generation?

Cherish:
I think this is a tricky question to answer, I think to generalize young people kind of eliminates the different groups within that category. It also eliminates so many different factors that could be at play when it comes to not voting. Person A, who is white, and came from a white upper middle-class suburb is going to have a completely different reason for not voting than person B who is Black and grew up in a predominantly Black, low-income neighborhood. Person A may not be voting because he doesn’t feel like he has to, for him decisions made in politics have no effect on him. Meanwhile, person B may not be voting because he’s heard all these politicians say they’re going to help people who look like him, and none of that help has come. So, for me, grouping those two together is a little unfair. I think in order to ask “why?” we have to acknowledge that these kinds of groups exist, and then we have to take each piece and dissect it. Person A probably just needs to be educated, and he needs to understand that choosing not to vote and choosing not to be involved in politics is a statement in itself. Person B probably just needs to see more people who genuinely want to help people who look like him run for these positions of power. 

Outside of that though, voter suppression and intimidation are a very real thing for this generation as well. There also just isn’t a lot of unbiased education about voting and how it works that is accessible for many demographics. I do think this is changing with my generation, but I also think society has a funny way of making it so that change is very hard to achieve. It’s my hope that through conversations like this that things can change more rapidly, but it all starts with education. 

Jenna: 
I feel, in the past, young people didn’t get politically involved or feel like it’s their place to vote. They felt it’s for parents and older people to deal with politics. It is 100% changing with our generation. We believe that the issues going on today are our issues. We believe that voting can make a change especially because four million people are going to turn 18 before the Presidential election and help make a difference. Now it is easier to register to vote and I think many young people are taking advantage of it and making sure their peers do as well. 

Zachary: 
I think part of the explanation for why young people do not vote as much as other groups lies in the fact that, on average, younger people are less educated and engaged than older people. This is important because an indicator of an individual’s likelihood to vote is the strength of their political opinions and their overall political engagement. I am not saying that there are not young people who are engaged in political matters, however, on average, there are less when compared to older people. This is something that I do not see changing now or anytime soon.

Dr. Anspach:

Do you feel like you have enough information in order to know who to vote for?

Cherish:
Yes, and no. I think this time around I have a decent amount of information, but that’s because I did the work to find it. When I’m looking for people to vote for, I want to see their political journey, I want to see what they’ve done in their careers that appeal to someone with my different identities. I want to know that if they say they want to help Black people, their political journey reflects that. It’s very hard to get that kind of transparency, especially in an accessible fashion. 

Jenna:
Yes, but I feel there could always be more information on the issues rather than the candidates’ personal lives. 

Zachary:
I do not think that I have all the information needed to decide on who to vote for at this time. This is because Joe Biden’s platform is unclear to me. Now with that said, I have not gone out of my way to go to his website and look into the specific policies that he is proposing. However, just from watching the news on a somewhat regular basis and watching a couple of videos online I have gathered enough information to be sure of the types of policies Trump would continue to support and implement if reelected, but I am not sure what Biden is really pushing for. It does not seem to me that he is running on any ideas or stances other than “Vote for me so we can beat Trump!” I plan on looking more deeply into Biden’s agenda as the election gets closer and after doing that I will feel comfortable about making an educated decision.

Dr. Anspach

What are the most important issues to you, personally?

Cherish:
Well anything to do with basic human rights. I’m Black, so Black issues are important to me, but so are queer and trans rights, immigrant rights, indigenous rights, the list goes on. Education is also really important to me as well, especially as a future educator. Mass incarceration and anything to do with the systemic oppression in the prison system. Defunding the police and redistributing that money to places like mental health professionals, the education system, better training for police officers so incidents like George Floyd’s, and the many others, don’t happen. As I said before, the list goes on. 

Jenna:
Personally, climate change, human rights, and gun control. 

Zachary:
My primary political concerns center around supporting policies that facilitate a fair merit-based society. It is important to me that people have equal opportunities to be successful and experience social mobility while also being rewarded for hard work and overall competence.

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