Project aims to spark political engagement

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Courtesy of Sarah Berman

Courtesy of Sarah Berman

College students, who are traditionally between the ages of 18-24 years old, make up the smallest percentage of active voters in presidential elections in America, according to a CNBC analysis. In the 2008 election, 44 percent of this demographic voted, and in the 2012 election, 38 percent voted.

According to the US Census Bureau, young adults between the ages of 18-24 have consistently voted at lower rates than all other age demographics in every presidential election since 1962. Voting data from the US Census Bureau also revealed that, on average, less than half the eligible young adult voters make it to the polls for a presidential election.

Sarah Berman,’16, Samantha Greene, ’16 and Taylor Alexy, ’16, are hoping to increase the percentage of students who vote on Lehigh’s campus through their capstone project with the Global Citizenship Program.

“We saw a need on Lehigh’s campus to be less apathetic,” Greene said. “We saw people weren’t really talking about politics in a productive way, so we wanted to create a forum for people to talk.”

Greene, Berman and Alexy are planning to facilitate political engagement across campus through a series of events. The first is a campus-wide event on Monday called Party Responsibly.

“It’s a massive campus-wide campaign to spark political engagement that is unbiased and non-partisan,” Berman said. “(It is also) getting people a little more excited about the 2016 election, and also just the world around them, and current events and staying up to date about political issues.”

During the event on Monday, tables will be set up in Rauch, the UC and outside STEPS to give students easy, quick and simple methods to stay engaged in political events and the upcoming election.

The first day of the campaign will also be an opportunity for students to sign up for news providers like theSkimm, register to vote and figure out party positioning through websites like isidewith.com. 

“(The project is about) telling students why it’s important not to vote on party loyalty but own personal values — ways to be informed and be an educated voter (is the goal),” Greene said.

The second event, called the After-Party, will involve several small group discussions throughout February and March between Lehigh undergraduates, graduates, staff, faculty and administrators, as well as members of the Bethlehem community. The group will be divided into smaller groups that will meet three different times throughout the two months.

“They’ll talk about political issues and current events,” Berman said. “It’s going to be a dialogue between people who would never usually interact.”

The groups will be given specific guidelines about how to remain unbiased throughout the discussions and will be urged to communicate their own opinions and point of view on topics with a diverse group of people.

The discussions will focus on issues at Lehigh and in the Bethlehem community.

“It’s not politics on a big scale, but how political issues are happening here and how they relate to us,” Greene said. “We’re bringing the hot-button issues that effect us nationally into focus a little bit more.”

According to Berman, the three are hoping that the campus campaign will spark awareness in Lehigh and Bethlehem community members to eventually bring a sustainable, politically-engaged attitude to campus.

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