March 1, 2016
By Maggie Angel
The 2016 presidential primaries are in full swing. On March 15, it is Illinois’ turn to go to the polls. The people of Illinois are not the only ones heading out to cast their ballots; the vital swing states Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Missouri are also having their primaries. The election season has also made it way onto Dominican’s campus.
Dialogue among students is flourishing as the election draws closer. Many students have actually voted in past elections, mostly in the 2012 presidential election and in the 2015 Chicago mayoral election. There is a wide range of issues that students feel are most important to them when they go out and vote. These include education, the economy, immigration, refugees, worker’s rights, women’s rights, gender issues, raising the minimum wage and foreign policy.
Sophomore and Theatre Arts major Andre Payne-Guillory’s first time voting was in the Chicago election and he plans to vote in the upcoming primaries as well. He is undecided and feels that, depending on the interests of others, there might not be as much dialogue as he would like.
Two of my friends have also shared their experience with political discussion. Senior Sofia Sandoval is a history/political science major and senior Kelsey Wilcoxon is an art major. Both stated that they have discussed the election, watched the debates with their other friends and also plan to vote in the primaries. However, they have also expressed a level of frustration with the election and politics in general.
Wilcoxon stated that “It’s frustrating that people are so tied to a party and do not make an effort to think of their own views.” Payne-Guillory added that “there’s a lot of opinions and mudslinging from opponents and people’s plans never work. I feel that it is the design of politics.” Sandoval commented saying, “I think it is important for people to be involved in politics not just during an election year because politics plays a big and important role in our everyday lives. This does not necessarily go away inauguration day.”
According the U.S. Census Bureau, young adults from age 18-24 had a voter turnout of only 38 percent in 2012; the lowest in comparison to adults 25-44, 44-65 and over 65.
Several students and organizations are actively encouraging their peers to stop the cycle of low youth voter turnout with campaigns and events to get students to the polls.
Junior and political science major Raunel Urquiza is one of the students promoting the civic duty of voting.
Urquiza frequently encourages his friends and family to vote.
“If it is a conversation at home, with my siblings, I explain election from each candidate’s stand point,” Urquiza said. “I want my siblings to vote alongside their values and beliefs. From local elections to state elections, I remind them that their vote counts.”
Ever since the midterm elections of 2014, he has started a voting awareness campaign in collaboration with the political science department.
“I saw a need for awareness on campus and took the initiative,” Urquiza said. “I applied for a grant from the Campus Election Engagement Project. With the help of Professor Dolence and volunteers from school groups and clubs, the project took off. It was also a chance to make buttons for Dominican. With the help of the Office of Marketing and Communications, I was able to select an image that would increase the overall reputation and awareness of the university.”
His passion for mobilizing our campus community has bared fruit through this successful campaign.
“Students responded well, it is in their best self-interest to become involved in any way that they can,” Urquiza said. “I believe that students want to make the world a more just and humane place. One way of doing that is being politically active, and is not limited to voting.”
The voter awareness campaign has continued this year with the Mazzuchelli Scholars, Global Voices and Visions, the Department of political science and Model UN all working together for an extensive campaign for the primaries.
Students from these organizations as well as those in professor David Dolence’s presidential elections class have volunteered at information tables for voter awareness. In addition, there will be a mock presidential caucus here on campus in the Social Hall on March 15, the same day as the primary, to get students more involved in the political process.
President of the Mazzuchelli Scholars board, Andrew Meissen, hopes that this event will motivate students.
“This is an opportunity to provide both politically motivated and politically confused individuals an opportunity to challenge or strengthen their beliefs by engaging in a communally-charged, hopefully diverse crowd event,” Meissen said. “The final, and perhaps most important, reason is to see what a sample of Dominican’s political beliefs looks like and provides a starting point to understand and therefore serve our own Dominican community much better.”
Following the caucus, they will also host a viewing party in the Lewis Lounge to view the results of the primaries in these key states.
It is important to note that these elections are not solely to vote for the candidate to represent each party but, depending on your district, there may be several other measures up to vote that directly affect our communities.
For more information of how to register to vote in Illinois visit elections.il.gov. If you’re from out of state visit brennancenter.org/studentvoting for more information on laws in your state.