While election years are always eventful, no one expected a year like this. With so much uncertainty in the country, this election will have a big impact on the country’s future. Thankfully, the Lewis & Clark College Democrats (Dems) are here to help spread awareness through political education and community outreach.
“So far this year we’ve been having weekly online meetings … to discuss current political news and talk about ways in which we can help advance Democratic causes,” Co-President Mateo Kaiser ’23 said. “We’ve also partnered with the Sister District Project which is an organization that connects Democratic activists in solidly blue states with campaigns in swing states where our time can make a difference, particularly at the state legislature level.”
In addition to hosting these virtual, federal-focused events, the club has been working on sharing information on campus about the Oregon political scene.
“We are currently trying to get some posters and flyers designed right now to help give information about voting registration, deadlines and how to do that in Oregon or any other state,” Cass Orr ’24, the Dem’s social media manager, said. “Also, we are currently trying to make IGTV videos about the debates and also any current news about what’s been going on in Oregon.”
Leading up to the election, the club will be participating in several other events, including debate watch parties, making phone calls to young voters, letter-writing sessions and Zoom discussions with Democratic candidates such as Brian Farkas and Frances Jackson, who are both running for North Carolina state legislature. Most of these events will be hosted by College Democrats of Oregon or College Democrats of America.
“In the weeks leading up to the election and through Nov. 4 we will be intensifying our efforts to get students involved in helping Democratic campaigns, and making sure that students vote in this watershed election,” Kaiser said. “Since many students at Lewis & Clark come from Colorado and Wisconsin, two crucial swing states, it is particularly important to make sure that students have a plan to vote this November.”
Although the amount of young voters has increased in recent years, the turnout has statistically been lower than that of any other age group, and was less than 50% in both 2012 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017.
“One of the reasons why issues and candidates that young voters support often get ignored is due to a huge turnout differential based on age,” Ben Gaskins, associate professor of political science and the club’s faculty advisor, said via email. “This creates a self-reinforcing cycle: older voters participate at greater rates, so the issues and candidates they care about get more focus, which makes younger voters tune out and get cynical about the system, and that lack of involvement further entrenches powerful interests in their political influence.”
A common trend among young voters is to vote third party, or to abstain from voting altogether. However, Gaskins believes that students should choose to vote with one of the two main parties.
“Not voting (or supporting third party candidates) causes your influence to wane, and this is directly at odds with making the changes students want to see,” Gaskins said. “Direct action is vital, but should be coupled with voting in primaries and general elections, especially at the state and local levels. Make your voice heard … students have an incredibly important role to play in American democracy and should be front and center of making that democracy work better.”