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Fall 2018 Projects

Check out our student projects from our Fall 2018 Darien class below! Our students created projects including Public Service Announcements, infographics, and op-eds on topics surrounding the voting process for Rutgers students and why millennials should become engaged in politics.

Infographics and Presentions

Check out this PSA about the importance of the Midterm Elections and what they mean for Rutgers students, created by a Darien student:

To check out a student project on getting registered to vote, go here.

 

To check out a student project on how to vote by mail, go here.

 

To check out a student project on how to find your polling location, go here.

 

Darien Students Express Their Voices

Four Darien students wrote Op-eds expressing their perspectives on why generational voices and involvement matter in elections as well as the impact they have on election results.

Why Your Vote Matters by Michelle Gabriel

Finding My Civic Voice by Uzo Achebe

Midterms Matter by Cory Bloom

Midterm elections in the United States are misunderstood and undervalued. A critical element to our democracy, midterms can prove to be the changing force in a current presidency, create new policy, and even create a standstill where the government can shut down as we saw in 2013. Midterms represent a symbolic step in our democracy that can serve to inspire the public to support a new candidate while ensuring incumbents don’t shirk their responsibilities or their duties. Even with this information, it is curious that many young adults still choose to ignore the midterm elections in favor of waiting for the “more important” general election.

This November, Americans across the country will have the opportunity to vote in 36 gubernatorial elections, 435 House of Representative elections and 33 Senatorial elections, along with many local and judicial elections. Locally elected officials command power and influence; from the work of police departments and schools to securing drivers’ licenses, issuing parking tickets, and driving taxes, the efforts of local officials affect our daily lives. The current political landscape makes these midterms the most important in recent history; needless to say political tensions have been on the rise and the stakes of every election are in the balance.

Recent history shows how important the midterms can be. In the 2010 midterms, President Obama was dealt a significant blow in the elections when Democrats lost 6 Senate seats and 63 House seats, giving Republicans a majority in the House. This red wave led by the newly formed tea-party movement stymied then-president Obama and forced him to dial back more liberal policies in his bills to gain moderate Republican support. A similar phenomenon has the potential to impact President Trump whereby Democrats could make gains in the House, Senate and state and local governments with the potential to stall the President’s agenda, forcing him to dial back his rhetoric and adopt more moderate policy.

For those that support president Trump, a healthy Republican turnout can bolster the President’s power, allowing him to pass more bills with more support from his party while gaining the political capital to create policy distinctly aligned with Republican values. A robust Republican midterm performance would provide the President more elected officials to endorse him in 2020 and allow Trump some breathing room in the event some people cross the aisle. With strong Republican backing, the sitting President would also leverage his platform to demonstrate that he deserves America’s vote in 2020. For anyone who still believes that 2018 is not important compared to 2020, it is undeniable that 2018 is essential FOR 2020.

Let’s not forget the all too common phrase that those who encourage voting hear on a regular basis: “my vote doesn’t matter.” In 2016 New Jersey had a 64% voter turnout rate among all voters. This number can be improved starting with the upcoming midterm election. In 2014 only one in five eligible young people voted; this is part of the reason people don’t have representation in Congress. You can’t complain if you don’t vote! There is a definitive chasm between the country’s Congress evidenced by the disparity in age, occupation, wealth, and other factors. To execute change, underrepresented people must vote for those that they believe will adopt policies and embrace ideas that will support a positive future for the country. Why sit out of the political process when you have the most bargaining power with your vote? Imagine if the tens of thousands of young people that protested behind the activism of David Hogg,  Emma González and other survivors of the Marjorie Stonham Douglas HS shooting got out and voted – how much impact might they have on public policy for gun control and other hot topics? They vote … they matter!

Voting is not difficult. You can register to vote in person by filling out a voter registration form and mail it in for free to the county clerk’s office. It is an easy process, and your voice will be heard, especially when you vote in large numbers and consistently! As countries around the world flee from democracy, voting and participation need to be presented to politicians at home and abroad as something that we value and cherish as citizens of a democracy.

America can become a leader in voter turnout; we need to mobilize and vote for the candidates, parties, and ideas we believe in, as generations before us did. We need to set the tone now to support voting by the generations of the future. The change can happen here. Let’s make 2018 the year we start a positive trend. Vote in the primary elections and for the sake of your country and your fellow citizens, vote on November 6th, 2018.

To Vote is to Exist by Madeleine Lewis

As presidential elections continuously have the highest voter turnout rates, we fail to recognize the significance congressional, state, and local elections can have in our daily lives. Yes, executive orders are an example of widespread public policy, yet local rules are ones that seem to affect us more often: the speed limit, taxes, and ordinances. These laws and regulations are ones shaped by local and state elected officials, but derive from elections in which very few people vote. A lack of awareness, distrust in government institutions, and poor political efficacy translate into low voter turnout in a time where we need it the most. The election of Donald Trump, the controversial Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, and the recent UN climate change report have the potential to mobilize voters to serve as a referendum on the President’s performance. Instead of pent up frustration, bitterness, and concession, we can translate that energy into the polls. The congressional midterm elections, in particular, occur in the midst of an unprecedented, highly contentious yet increasingly polarizing presidency. If the past two years, nonetheless, the past week have evinced anything, it has demonstrated that your vote has enormous consequences.

The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement reported that the voter turnout at Rutgers- New Brunswick for the 2016 presidential election was 54%, slightly above average for other institutions (IDHE). However, the 2014 midterm election presented a dismally low 11.2% (IDHE). This election has the potential and is likely to increase that percentage. Registering to vote takes two minutes and is straightforward; you can even register to vote when you get your driver’s license. Voting itself takes less than a minute, and it is easy to find your polling location by looking up Rutgers polling locator. Most polls are open for at least 12 hours, and if you really cannot make it, you can fill out a mail-in (or absentee) ballot. If you live on Livingston or Busch, voting is at the student center. Since Election Day is on a Tuesday, it is easier for most students to vote on campus rather than going home to vote. An address change on a voter registration form also takes two minutes to fill out. Think your vote doesn’t matter? Think again.

Besides the accessibility of registering to vote and voting itself, your vote can serve as a check on your president’s, legislature’s, or other elected officials’ performances. Rallies, protests, and marches galvanize a reaction to policies, but real and effective change is voting out those who created the policy to begin with. Transferring energy from protests to polls is a sure way to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with current laws or political officials. State and local elections should matter to everyone, but for young adults and Rutgers students, in particular, there are multiple ways in which politics affect your daily life: tuition, the minimum wage, public transportation, public safety, even recycling! Your vote has a greater impact at the local and state level than nationally because of the direct responsibility for local elected officials. Less voters turnout for local and state elections, giving your voice a greater opportunity to be heard. Further, local and state policies can shape federal laws later on- just look at same-sex marriage for example. More attention is paid to national presidential races than midterms, but the 2016 election has created a sense of awareness and engaged the public more than ever before. How to react? Vote.

Works Cited

Institute for Democracy & Higher Education: National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement. (2016). 2012 & 2016, 2014 NSLVE Campus Report. Medford, MA.

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Darien Students Research Why Millennials Matter

 

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