Students get ready for 2016 presidential election
As the 2016 presidential election approaches, students are showing support for candidates by registering to vote, joining candidate-focused groups and getting politically informed.
Different organizations and clubs on campus take different political approaches in the hope of getting students involved in the election process
The Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, which held voter registration this past week, is a nonpartisan organization working to engage citizens, while various groups on campus express political opinions.
“The main thing that I’m excited about is thinking not just in terms of voter registration, but voter engagement. To be a registered voter is great, to be an informed and registered voter is better, and being an informed and registered voter who actually votes is best, and our mission is all three,” Director of the Gephardt Institute Stephanie Kurtzman said.
“We have zero interest in what people vote for, or who people vote for. Other groups on campus will advocate for that. Our interest is that students in particular, but staff and faculty as well, understand themselves as part of the democratic process and the impact that voter engagement can have on things that affect all of our lives,” she added.
Sophomore Rachel Harris, a student employee of the Gephardt Institute, helped register people to vote.
“The discrepancy between Republican and Democratic votes is usually really small in Missouri, and getting Wash. U. to vote and share their opinions will make a difference,” Harris said.
Sophomore Ruben Schuckit, president of the campus chapter of the College Republicans, volunteered this summer for the presidential campaign of Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“I’m a big fan of John Kasich. One, I’m a very moderate Republican and so is Kasich—he’s the most moderate of them. Also, he’s a governor, and I think executive experience is incredibly important to being president,” Schuckit said.
According to Schuckit, the club, which won’t be backing a candidate until there is an official nominee, is holding two types of meetings this year: One is discussion-based, where the club will discuss an article, and the other is a crash course to educate students about topics such as how primaries work and where individual officials stand.
“I think it would be a mischaracterization to say I want them to pick who their favorite is, but I want to give them the tools to evaluate which candidate is most in line with their opinion,” Schuckit said.
Senior Cody Kallen, external vice president of the College Republicans, is supporting Marco Rubio.
“He’s young, politically savvy, and a powerful and inspirational speaker. Although he is a freshman senator, he previously served as the Speaker of the House in Florida, proof that he understands how to cut deals, reach across the aisle and work with Congress, three things President Obama has been unable or unwilling to do,” Kallen said. “He demonstrates great depth of knowledge on foreign policy, and I have a similarly hawkish policy perspective.”
According to sophomore Jonah Ragsdale, president of the College Democrats, the club is connected with the two major Democratic campaigns nationwide, through which the club provides opportunities to members to campaign in St. Louis.
Ragsdale, who is also co-head of the WashU Students for Hillary group, said the College Democrats have been supporting both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
“Our club is open to the possibility of either, and no matter the nominee they will have our full support,” he said.
The other leader of the WashU Students for Hillary group, sophomore Rashi Narayan, explained that the group is currently gathering support on campus and participating in phone banks to progress the cause in Iowa, whose caucus is the first in the nation.
Sophomore Hannah Greenhouse, a member of the College Democrats worked on the Clinton campaign this summer.
“I’m supporting her because I think she is the best president for our current situation. The 114th Congress is extremely Republican-dominated, and we need a president who will be able to work with them, and I think she’s the best one to do so. She has so much knowledge of international affairs and she has so much experience in the federal government that I really think she’ll be able to get the things done that she’s talking about in her speeches and that she’s campaigning for,” Greenhouse said.
Sophomore Jonah Klein-Barton, vice president of the College Democrats, is the head of the WashU for Bernie group.
According to Klein-Barton, his group will be canvassing, registering voters, holding events on campus and working with other groups in the St. Louis area.
“I’m supporting Bernie Sanders. I would describe my political opinion as very progressive, liberal. Some of the major issues for me are income inequality, campaign finance reform and his new push to reform private prisons is, I think, a very important point that needs more attention to be paid to it,” Klein-Barton said.
Other students who are not yet involved in political groups on campus also expressed opinions about their hopes for the presidential race.
“I think I am siding with Hillary Clinton at this moment,” sophomore Teran Mickens said. “I feel like Bernie Sanders is not as relatable to me as Hillary Clinton could be. ”
Sophomore Natalie Edwards said, “I don’t know. Maybe John Kasich. I might end up voting for him, but he’s not a huge proponent of women’s rights, so that’s an issue, but none of the Republicans are. I don’t feel strongly about any of the Democratic candidates. I am an independent. I want a trustworthy president, and I want someone who will really improve education in our country.”