With the United States midterm elections quickly approaching, voting is definitely something that has been on my mind lately. And as a resident of Pennsylvania, I have also been anxious for the upcoming state election. So, I was excited to attend a Lafayette Votes X Girl and the Gov panel on Tuesday, September 13! Lafayette Votes is an organization stemming from the Landis Center for Community Engagement, focused on student voter registration and turnout, and they hosted this talk on the political process of voting.
This hybrid event featured Sammy Kanter and Maddie Medved, the CEOs and co-hosts of the podcast Girl and the Gov. It was moderated by Lafayette students Kate Ahern and Giulia Matteucci, who have be involved with addressing feminist issues around campus. I actually worked with both of them last year as part of the executive board for Lafayette’s branch of GirlUp!
Sammy and Maddie did an excellent job of explaining the importance of voter registration. They emphasized that younger generations have so much power when it comes to voting, and with proper civic education, this power can be harnessed to help them contribute to the political change they wish to see. College campuses tend to already have high rates of voter registration. In 2018, an important midterm year, 80% of Lafayette’s student body was registered to vote! Of course, this number changes each year when the next class of first-years, many of whom are unregistered, enter the college.
The hosts also discussed voter turnout, and how often times people are registered to vote but are unable to show up to the polls. Increasing voter turnout encompasses building a sense of community around civic engagement, and making sure polling places are safe and accessible for all voters.
A topic of much interest for the audience was the role of informal policy actors like public opinion and the media. In particular, social media is definitely becoming an influential political tool. Candidates can gain a following on social media and make clear posts about their agenda. Especially for state and local elections, during which voter turnout is typically lower than it is during national elections, a positive and effective social media presence can help a candidate reach more constituents. People can also support their preferred candidate in a non-financial way simply by following them and sharing their posts. Of course, voters should apply critical thinking when presented with information on social media, and always check their sources for credibility. But when used properly, social media can certainly be a tool for good.
To wrap up the evening, the podcast hosts discussed women in office and some barriers that have traditionally led to men holding more positions of political power. These include the general societal perception that a woman who is a mother cannot also hold an important job. Many men in office are fathers, yet they are never asked to prioritize their children or family life over their careers. This double standard is very frustrating, but voting for more women can help chip away at it. After all, when women are in office, the voices of female voters are better heard.
I am glad to have attended this event. As a young female voter, it was great to hear from both peers and people with more experience on the topic. I’ll definitely have to check out the Girl and the Gov podcast!
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The United States midterm election and the Pennsylvania state election are both on Tuesday, November 8. Lafayette students can vote in-person at polling places throughout Easton, or through the mail via a mail-in ballot. You can check your polling place or request your mail-in ballot online at your state’s government website. If voting by mail-in ballot, make sure to allow enough time for your request to be processed, the physical ballot to be sent to campus, and to send it back to be counted. I just requested and got approved for my mail-in ballot last week!
If you are not yet registered to vote, don’t worry! Lafayette Votes has voter registration materials. Check out their Instagram (@lafayettevotes) and their webpage (https://landiscenter.lafayette.edu/leadership-development-models/lafayette-votes/) for more information and upcoming events.