Democracy Matters event promotes student involvement

Photo courtesy of Mando Gomez, Flickr

Democracy Matters, a non-partisan political club on campus, held a letter-writing event on Tuesday, April 16, to kick off the organization’s week of action. Each participant was granted the opportunity to reach out to elected officials, stating and advocating for any current issues concerning them.

Juniors and political science majors Caleb Herbst and Leah Lindstrom co-organized this event in an effort to raise awareness of students’ right to use their voice in politics. In doing so, the two drew a large emphasis on the importance of taking time to script a letter to a representative.

Herbst emphasized that although the letter “won’t reach the congressperson, someone with a voice in Congress–their staff–will read it.” Lindstrom made a point to also add that “writing, specifically, shows that you care … it’s more impactful.”

She followed by explaining events like this often introduce students to issues on a local scale or national level, with the “main goal [of getting] more people involved” in mind.

The two expressed a need for scrutiny for campaigns that are funded by large corporations, for it does not constitute a clean election. Elections that involve donating to certain candidates would be rendered “dirty” or “unfair,” as most citizens are not fortunate enough to compete with the wealthy. However, this is only one of the many problems Democracy Matters finds with our current state of US politics:

“Why is voting a right that you have to register for? Other rights are inherent. So, one of our goals is to make voting an easier process,” Herbst stated.

The group makes an effort to work towards this goal with their clear intention to set up tables at the Fishbowl and break down the seemingly intimidating voting process. This event is deliberately held every fall semester right before elections, and is primarily focused on people registering to vote.

To intrigue newcomers, the group asks Ramapo students to write one thing that they care about, which is then posted on display at the Fishbowl.

Lindstrom explained that this approach allows for more individualized reasons as to why people should care about elections. When openly exposed to this, students may come to recognize the pressing amount of issues that concern their fellow peers, which could potentially prompt them to not only vote for themselves, but for others as well.

The success of this approach ultimately defends Herbst’s statement, “Young people do tend to vote less. People think this is because they’re apathetic, which isn’t true. Not enough of us realize what’s impacting us. With age, people learn that policies affect them.”

In realizing that the youth needs this sense of awareness sooner, Democracy Matters’ table events grant students the opportunity to register to vote and learn about the importance of voting locally and nationally.

Herbst explained that because Ramapo is a small college with mostly in-state students enrolled, voting booths on campus would be rather unnecessary. Yet, this reduces residents’ options to either drive home to vote or to not vote at all. In an effort to challenge this setback, Democracy Matters promotes and offers the opportunity of mail-in ballots.

Freshman attendee Ryan Cortese emphasized that events like this remind college students to get their voices out there because “we have a right to do so.”

Democracy Matters will continue to spend this week hosting events that allow students to be heard, and promote the importance of both national- and-local level politics. Some of these activities will extend to both congressmen and women, while others will simply extend to students on campus.