With less than a month remaining until the 2020 presidential election, political leaders within the Lehigh community are pushing for increased student political participation.
During the week of Sept. 20, the Lehigh College Democrats, Lehigh College Republicans and student-led initiative Hawk the Vote co-hosted a voter registration drive over Zoom. During the event, Lehigh students had the opportunity to join a call to discuss their registration status and personal voting plan.
Anna Nicosia, ‘21, treasurer of the Lehigh College Democrats, said co-hosting the event with the College Republicans was done in an effort to boost voter turnout among the Lehigh community regardless of individual ideology.
“Voting is important no matter what party you are,” Nicosia said.
Ethan Moscot, ‘22, president of the Lehigh College Republicans, said boosting voter turnout for Lehigh students is especially important because college student turnout has been low in previous elections.
“We’re just trying to do our part to politically engage the Lehigh community,” he said.
Alex Farricker, ‘23, an intern for NextGen Pennsylvania, an organization dedicated to turning out the youth vote, works with Lehigh and surrounding schools to raise awareness about voting and encourage student voter participation.
Nicosia and Moscot both said the pandemic has made it difficult for their clubs to connect with students in the ways they had hoped for.
Moscot said COVID-19 has made it impossible to complete some of the events the club had planned this semester, such as tabling.
Nicosia said Lehigh’s transition to remote learning has made it difficult to gain participation for some of the events they have been able to host. She said she believes students are less inclined to join their virtual events because of how much time they are spending online for classes.
Despite challenges amid the pandemic, Nicosia said voting is more important now than ever before.
“I think the more people that vote and have their vote officially casted, the better for the state of our democracy,” she said.
Moscot said the college student demographic has a specified interest in certain political issues and voting is a vital component of shedding light on these issues.
“You vote, you make your voice heard for the issues that you care about the most and then hopefully that’s reflected,” he said.
Farricker agreed that it’s crucial for younger voters to get involved in the political process.
“Our opinions are important considering we are up and coming into the workforce,” Farricker said. “With today’s political climate, there are so many issues on the line that could drastically affect us in the future if we don’t make our voices heard.”
The College Democrats and the College Republicans both hold regular meetings to discuss political participation and ideology.
Nicosia said the College Democrats are also participating in a competition to incentivize voting in the area and familiarize people with Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), who represents the Lehigh Valley in the U.S. House.
More information on these clubs can be found on Lehigh LINC.
Both Nicosia and Moscot said while the names of the clubs may hold certain connotations, the clubs remain open to various opinions. Nicosia said though the College Democrats can be perceived as a “polarized and partisan group,” the group is more a forum for discussion.
“Just because we are the College Republicans does not mean that there isn’t a wide range of viewpoints under that umbrella,” Moscot said.
Another organization on Lehigh’s campus, Hawk the Vote, began a petition urging the university to cancel classes on Election Day.
Since its creation, the petition has received over 1,500 signatures and has gained attention from the school, but the mandatory cancellation of classes has since been denied by university administration.
Nicosia said she is one of the members of the Lehigh community who supports cancelling classes on Election Day.
“I think that anything that makes it easier for people to vote is something that Lehigh should get behind,” she said.
Farricker also said she supports Hawk the Vote’s movement. She said personally she has a full class schedule on Election Day and finding time to get to the polls will be difficult.
Farricker said the cancellation of classes would provide a fair opportunity for students to vote.
Moscot said the College Republicans has also been involved in the conversations regarding the cancellation of classes on Nov. 3, but has not taken a formal stance.