Asa Daniels, Campus Carrier staff writer
With the upcoming November election, Berry’s two major political groups, the Young Democrats and Berry College Republicans (BCR), have come together to encourage political engagement and knowledge to the student body.
Both groups have participated with Vikings Out To Elect (V.O.T.E.) Berry’s bipartisan committee that encourages students to get involved in political activism, at the organization’s voter registration drives, now they are helping encourage students to vote.
V.O.T.E. has been mailing student absentee ballots, absentee ballot requests, mail-in ballots and other necessary election documents free of charge for students. Students can drop off their items for mailing at the information desk in Krannert, according to sophomore Taylor Carles, student coordinator for V.O.T.E.
If any students have questions or difficulty with voting, they can email SAO at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their office in Krannert.
The Young Democrats and BCR will be hosting a debate watch party together tonight in the Krannert ballroom. President of Young Democrats, junior Arianna Van Kley, hopes that students will participate in the watch party as a sign of unity across political boundaries.
“We [want to] get both sides, Republican and Democrat in the same room, watching a debate between our two candidates, so we can together evaluate what our political scene looks like,” Van Kley said.
Both groups have had to have smaller scale engagements with the campus due to COVID-19, but are still attempting to foster political engagement. For the Young Democrats, their meetings are often a check-up on recent political events, where the group comes together to discuss their opinions and views. For VanKley, these discussions bring out the unique ideas within the group.
“I think there’s enough diversity of opinion within the Democrats here at Berry that we can have some pretty awesome and productive discussions so that not only are we thinking about what the party thinks, but we’re also kind of realizing that we don’t necessarily have to have ideology aligned perfectly with the party,” VanKley said.
BCR is planning to operate a phone drive for Trump’s reelection campaign to help bolster voter participation, according to senior Case Winkler, chairman of BCR.
Besides encouraging voter activity, both groups are trying to foster voter literacy as well. They have shared links to websites for students to become informed about what political beliefs they have, which may encourage how they vote in the election.
Carles believes that it is this voter education that has been particularly lacking during election time.
“You know, we want everybody to register and we want everybody to vote the way that they feel most aligns with their beliefs, because that’s everyone’s right, but we want people to be educated before they just blindly, you know, check a box,” Carles said.
For VanKley, she feels that college students need to care about the future that they can shape politically.
“It’s really important because the issues that we’re voting on now are going to affect us for the rest of our lives,” VanKley said. “We’re going to be living whatever happens for the rest of our lives, and we should be the ones who have a say in what happens to us.”
Eric Sands, the BCR faculty advisor, also believes that college students are in the best position to impact the politics of the future.
“You guys are the generation that has the best chance of making a change and, you know, bringing a change of tone and a change in approach to political life and the torch is going to be passed pretty soon to your generation to begin to lead and I’d really like to have you guys be a generation of students and eventually, citizens, that take that responsibility seriously and really embrace your role as citizens and voters …[as] something that you want to do and something you’re actually excited about participating in,” Sands said.
Sands added that college is often the formative years of a voter’s participation in the electorate, as they have more time available to commit to learning about politics and the choices they can make before engaging in the workforce.
For Winkler, he hopes that students will become politically active in order to learn more about their own views.
“I hope they learn more about themselves and know more about … what issues are their number one issue that they want to vote for, and always vote for what they truly believe is the right versus the wrong thing,” Winkler said.
Carles hopes that people take their right to vote seriously in the upcoming election, not only to voice their opinions for the future but also to appreciate the efforts of the past.
“This is a hard-fought thing – like, women were not able to vote, people of color were not able to vote for a very long time and people, throughout history, have died for us to have this right,” Carles said.
With such a divisive election year, Sands understands why people may feel turned off from voting and politics in general. However, he hopes that people will still be politically active and informed.
“I think that [voting] puts us among a very privileged few who can actually engage in self-government and I think we should show our appreciation and our recognition that there’s something special about that by participating in the democratic process,” Sands said.