Check out our student projects from our Fall 2016 Darien class below! Our students have created projects including presentations, infographics, and op-eds on topics surrounding the voting process and the 2016 election.
Infographics and Presentations
To check out more student projects on getting to registered to vote, go here.
To check out more student projects on getting to the polls and casting your ballot, go here.
Four Darien students write Op-eds expressing their perspectives on the voter registration process and the 2016 presidential candidates’ platforms.
Op-ed on race relations and the 2016 Presidential Election by Amanda Luchun
We Are Not Convinced Yet by Rosslin Mensah-Boateng
An Imposing Generation Gets Ready to Make its Statement by Mary Fam
With less than two weeks left until Election Day, stakes are high for both the presidential candidates and their parties. Despite an established reputation as unreliable voters, youths make up a growing and crucial bloc with the power to shape the upcoming election, as previous generations shaped theirs. The Millennial Generation, residents of the United States born after about 1980, now outnumbers previous generations like the Baby Boomer generation at a staggering population of approximately 77 million. But, many still feel they are too far from the center of politics to create an impact.
Still, we must wonder why youth engagement in the political process is so different from previous generations. Interestingly, youth engagement seems to have a correlation with the voter registration process. Recent research at the Pew Research Center reveals that only 50% of adults under the age of 30 are absolutely certain they are registered to vote, as opposed to 82% of Baby Boomers and 87% of WWII generation citizens. , A variety of reasons could account for this such as an inconvenient registration process or a lack of interest in civic engagement.
Here at Rutgers University, however, political engagement seems to be on the rise in many different ways. Many student groups, as well as other partisan and non-partisan organizations, seek to raise awareness of civic engagement and the importance of voting; they have set up voter registration tables in order to make involvement easier for students.
Before these attempts, many students felt detached to the voting process. When asked about her take on the registration process, one Rutgers student said, “we [Millennials] understand the importance of voting, but don’t necessarily want to go out of our way. We live in an era of technology, and the registration process is antiquated, and doesn’t cater to this generation and its needs. If there was an app which you could register through, I think registration in our age group would be much higher. Still, it’s helpful that you can register here on campus.” In an age where the use of social media and technology is exceptionally common among youths, an in-person or by-mail voter registration seems outdated and widens the gap between young voters and the political process. Consequently, that gap can lead to apathy and feelings of disempowerment, which discourages eligible voters from participation.
Millennial voting patterns have fluctuated in recent presidential elections, and the numbers could go either way this year. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), in 2004, about 48% of Millennials voted, and rates rose to 50% in 2008, but then decreased in 2012 to 45%. Accordingly, it will be difficult to foresee turnout rates among youths in the upcoming elections. Thus, it is important to spread the word about the importance of being registered and turning out to vote on election day.
For this upcoming election, Rutgers students, like Millennials across the country, seem to be taking a great interest in politics. Here on campus, hundreds of students have just registered to vote and are anxious to take part of America’s biggest decision this November. Even more have gone out to watch debates with their friends and classmates at events like the second presidential debate watch at the Yard on College Avenue.
At universities nationwide and here at Rutgers, the glass remains half full. Recent voting rates above 50% have been encouraging. Moreover, for this generation, the meaning of “civic engagement” is far broader than just voting. Millennials have shown high rates of volunteering, community service, and civic use of social media when compared to previous generations. Millennials have been known to make their voices heard through boycotting and protests, and they like to challenge conventional norms. With a little encouragement, they can stand on the shoulders of those who came before them and get a better glimpse at a more promising future. Here at Rutgers, we are eager to see whether all the efforts to encourage students will bear fruit.
Online Voter Registration—A way to amplify our voices by Yimao Liu
Fifty-one percent of eligible voters ages 18-29 voted in 2008. Sixty-six percent of them voted for President Obama, higher than the rate for older voters. It is fair to say that Millennials made history and helped elect the first black president. The Millennial generation is larger than every other generation, even Baby Boomers. We are the future of the nation, and some of us are almost in our early 30s. In the near future, Millennials will be running Congress and the courts; and eventually one of us will become President. It is vital to make sure young people’s voice can be heard—and the most direct way is voting.
Since the start of the semester, RU Voting™ has trained teams to register students to vote on campus. We provide guidance to students on how to complete voter registration forms correctly. Despite these efforts students can easily make mistakes. In these cases, RU Voting™ staff contacts people via phone or e-mail to correct the mistakes— a process that takes time and energy. Is there a more effective way to get more Millennials to vote?
Living in the “age of information”, young people benefit from technology on a daily basis. An online-voter-registration system with clear guidelines may help to makes all information accessible, allow potential voters to register at a convenient time and place, and save money and effort.
Lack of information about how and where to register is one serious issue that limits young voters. RU Voting™ conducts registration drives on campus, but on-campus residents may not know that they can register to vote using their campus addresses. While recently doing voter registration, our team was thanked for simply letting a student know that he could submit an address change to his earlier registration and be eligible to vote in New Brunswick. If not for this interaction, this student would have had to drive back home or not cast his ballot at all. Imagine how many young eligible voters are unaware of their options! This information gap reflects a serious problem that could keep Millennial voices from being heard. Online voter registration could reach more people through social media by disseminating links rather than forms.
As students, we do not always carry our driver’s licenses, nor does everyone remember the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number. It is difficult for a new student unfamiliar with their RUID number to complete their campus mailing address. RU Voting™ volunteers were repeatedly asked by students when and where voter registration drives were going to be held again, so students could return with the necessary information.
Moreover, online voter registration could reduce the burden on state budgets. A 2013 Wisconsin Government Accountability Board report, “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Implementing an Online Voter Registration System in Wisconsin,” shows that “[o]nline voter registration would reduce the number of paper registrations and registration updates processed by municipal clerks, benefiting local governments in terms of time savings and reduction in supply costs”. In addition to cost reductions, online registration also saves workers time and energy. Assuming that online voter registration would not let you submit the form unless completed correctly, volunteers and state workers would no longer need to contact people for simple corrections.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of June 14 2016, a total of 31 states plus the District of Columbia offer online registration. However, New Jersey is not one of them. If young voters do not know their voting options on campus, or cannot complete the form right away, it is less likely that they will vote. Especially for this year’s presidential election, when many students are first-time voters, a shift to online voter registration would have alleviated these hurdles and would have cost less money, time and energy for government and voter groups. Online voter registration would not only benefit students on campus, but offer the whole state a more convenient process.
Op-ed on Race Relations and the 2016 Presidential Election by Amanda Luchun
Millennials make up 21.3% of the eligible voter population. Our vote in this election was one that Bernie Sanders controlled for all of the primaries. When the primaries left us lost, it felt like the best place to turn was the Democratic Party. With 68% of Millennials backing her, Democrat Hillary Clinton was under careful watch during the debates. About half of eligible voters in America, 84 million people, tuned in to watch the first presidential debate. Issues Millennials care about, race, college tuition, abortion, were addressed more with Barack Obama or Bernie Sanders. Yet the issue of race came up during every debate, it seems to be obvious that tensions have risen over the last year. Millennials, as the most educated and diverse generation yet, have a natural yearning to be told the truth about social issues. Hillary Clinton wants to use her experience to bring reform to the system, while Donald Trump wants to strengthen the system through control. With only half of the American population asserting that racism is still a big problem, presidents should be bringing to light the most current examples of racism in our country by finding new ways to address the problem.
Race relations in the United States are an impossibly complex problem that each citizen is connected to. In the first presidential debate, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spoke for twenty minutes about the sub issues beneath what race means in America. The issues included gun violence, police and citizen relations, incarceration and the system of justice we have created. Within our justice system there exists a bias between police and African Americans, and it is more prevalent in certain states. The divide makes this election an important one for how America will see the concept of race in the future. With Hillary we may see some legitimate change in thinking or with Donald we may see change come through laws and regulations.
The United States holds the highest world ranking in firearm shootings and ownership of firearms. Countries that follow us in highest ownership such as Switzerland, Finland, and Cyprus, don’t see anywhere near as much violence as we do, so the problem remains how people get them and why they have guns. Trump cited the success of stop and frisk as a method to control gun violence, but stop and frisk was only loosely correlated with a decrease in crime. The other factors that went into the decrease of crime in New York confound the data and make it look like stop and frisk was a success when crime had already been declining for years. Much like the topic of race, stop and frisk should be examined from all possible angles in order to determine its place in the United States. The form of control Donald Trump proposed was a somewhat dated example of policy reform that is a short sited to the larger problems at hand.
Hillary Clinton spoke about decreasing the use of violent force in the police department. Furthermore, she continued to speak on the inequality within the criminal justice system. Hillary could’ve expanded further with the topic of incarceration, since many of the recent deaths of African Americans have been in custody of the police in places where Democracy is the minority. Hillary offered a more comprehensive perspective on race that addressed two major sides of the race issue; police and minorities. Yet there is no set solution, and what works in New York may not work in Chicago or Texas. The education on what race is and how it is understood around the United States has yet to be addressed. The perspectives the candidates take on race very much aligns themselves with already existing ideas, rather than something new to replace them.
To gain the millennial vote, it is not practical to become like Bernie Sanders or Barack Obama. It is necessary to remain on the side of equality while speaking in truth. The debate certainly had a lot of honest opinions but when it comes to the root of the issue of race, it may be necessary for Millennials to make their own way in healing tensions.
We Are Not Convinced Yet by Rosslin Mensah-Boateng
During the race to become the president of the United States, republican nominee, Donald Trump, and democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, campaigned long and hard to get as much support as they can and win the presidency. Mr. Trump, who is a businessman and a producer of the show, the Apprentice, brought interesting perspectives into this debate. He carries a blunt, strong presence. Without any political experience or record, he tackled the presidential race without hesitation, just boldness. On the other hand, Mrs. Clinton was a former New York Senator and United States Secretary. Her career track and political experiences are very impressive. Throughout all of the presidential debates, the candidates expressed their ideas for college student debt, health care, jobs, social security, and retirement savings plans. A large majority of Americans, the millennial generation in particular, find these things important. The candidates needed to try to harder to convince millennials that they can be the change they wish to see.
According to the Business Insider website, “Both candidates agreed that college student debt is a national problem. The debt makes it difficult for students to pay off, especially with a very competitive job market. More and more millennials are entering the job market with advanced degrees, but also with a lot of debt as well. The average student-loan balance among people with bachelor’s degrees has risen from $15,000 in the mid-1990s to about $27,000.” With the job market being more competitive than ever, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to get a high paying job upon graduation. Nonetheless, loan interests continue to increase whether recent graduates are employees or not. Hillary spoke a lot about the improving the job market by increasing job opportunities, especially for emerging or small businesses. She emphasized the importance of an education, and how going to school should not be a burden. She spoke in a sympathetic tone, focusing on her experience with her working class parents and how they instilled positive values in her. Getting jobs that pay well could help with the job economy and allow young people to have job security. On the other hand, Donald wants to bring jobs back, jobs that have gone overseas and are costing Americans to become unemployed, as he asserts. The problem, he noticed, was that jobs were not adequately available to all Americans. He wants to create more employment opportunities for many people in our country, by investing more into businesses to create jobs and stability. He spoke in a proud, patriotic tone that resonated with many people who suffered from unemployment and other difficulties with the economy.
With health care, many people, not just millennials, want to have affordable insurance. Both of the candidates want Americans to have affordable health insurance. Trump has consistently expressed his dislike for Obamacare and how it needs to eliminated. He expressed how premiums were too high and poor and working class Americans were unable to afford it. He proposed an idea of affordable insurance. Clinton was also working to push for affordable health care with plans that are slightly different from Obamacare. With social security and retirement plans, the candidates both want to improve that. More and more Americans want better savings plans for their retirement. Seven in ten millennials say cost is a very important factor when looking for healthcare. Healthinsurance.org states that “Sixty-six percent of millennials feel a premium at or above $200 per month is unaffordable.” Increased cost of entitlements raises the burden on millennials who will be the ones working while a large set of the population will be reaching retirement age. Millennials would have to pay more for insurance at an unfair advantage. We need affordable insurance so that everyone can have access to health services they need.
Overall, the candidates needed to relate more to millennials in order to gain their support and trust that they can bring the change they want to see.