Joseph Adams & Jefferson Harwood
The midterm elections are on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and there are two important races in Kansas: one for the house district that represents Johnson county and another in the race for governor, along with races in Missouri.
For governor, Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (R), Laura Kelly (D) and Greg Orman (I) are running against each other. For the House of Representatives, in Kansas’ Third District, Sharice Davids (D) is running against incumbent Kevin Yoder (R).
The approaching Election Day has spurred students’ participation in the voting process and the college’s involvement in voter registration and education.
Students on campus can influence campus culture concerning voter registration and education. Chris Roesel, student, has worked with the college to increase the participation of his fellow students in the elections. Roesel helped write an email sent to students during this election cycle encouraging them to register and vote, as well as wrote a letter to the editor which was published in The Campus Ledger.
“The reason it was written by me is I went to the administration and the Board of Trustees and said, ‘one of the student learning outcomes for the college is civic engagement, we aren’t getting it, and here are some things to do to change it,’” Roesel said. “I kept pushing them and they didn’t change very fast; if it were everybody instead of just me doing it, they’d change quicker.”
Roesel encourages every student to educate themselves about the issues and the candidates on the ballot.
“I have talked with every candidate running for election who will be on this ballot,” Roesel said. “For people who don’t have that opportunity, one easy way to do it is to go to votesmart and put in your zip code. They give you connections to everybody who will be on your ballot.”
Roesel suggests students order a mail-in ballot. Roesel receives his ballot three weeks in advance and takes time to research any unfamiliar candidates or propositions. For quick research, he relies on the internet.
“I always know what is [on the ballot] because I always have a study sheet beforehand,” Roesel said. “I don’t do it at the last moment.”
Perrin Besch, student, first-time voter and registered Republican, described what issues are important to him in this election.
“It’s going to be voter ID [laws] and immigration, as well as the ability to work with the president,” Besch said.
There are many elections labelled as toss-ups across the country, but Besch feels that Republican chances are good.
“I don’t think there is a lot at stake for Republicans because they are probably going to do very well in this election,” Besch said. “A lot of polls underestimate Republican presence because not a lot of Republicans end up responding to polls.”
“Mostly I’m against Sharice Davids,” Besch continued. “I think she is trying to change a status quo that I’m comfortable with and I’m good with what the incumbents are doing currently.”
Roesel also expressed opinions on certain campaigns and candidates.
“Of course, for governor we have Kelly or Kobach,” Roesel said. “Kobach in his parade ran a Jeep with an automatic machine [replica] gun mounted on the back of it as a symbol for what he stands for. Kelly stands for adequate public education, health care for the population, and the use of federal funds for health care.”
Like Roesel, Valerie Knott, student, feels it’s important to be a registered voter. Knott uses the internet in addition to other sources to educate herself about candidates.
“A lot of times I’ll talk to friends or I’ll just look on the internet,” Knott said. “I prefer to go to websites that don’t even show what party people are running for, that just show what people support.”
The faculty plays a prominent role in the months leading up to an election. David Krug, professor, Accounting, is active in the political scene both on and off campus.
Krug, who has helped with three voter registration drives on campus, encourages all students in his classes to register to vote and then show up on election day. Krug pointed out there are limitations on the role faculty and the college at large can play in the political realm.
“The college has to be careful [because] we’re taxpayer funded,” said Krug. “We certainly cannot stand up in class and advocate for certain candidates, but I do advocate registering and voting.”
Andrea Vieux, professor, Political Science, works as chair of the Political Science Club, an organization that takes a non-partisan approach to politics. She discussed the importance of voting for young people.
“Elected officials aren’t concerned about things that concern [younger generations], like the rising national debt and the bills that will be left for younger people to pay off,” Vieux said. “It is easy for people to make policies like that because younger individuals aren’t telling them to stop.
“I think for younger people now there is this greater awareness that if you can get people out to vote and start having a larger voice, elected officials would be forced to listen to you because you’re engaged.”
Education about candidates and policies is important to Krug but is also a topic that requires caution at a public college.
“I cannot invite [a candidate] to come on campus but a student could invite [a candidate] to come on campus,” Krug said.
Help from the Outside
Beyond the contributions of the college’s administration, faculty and students, other organizations affect the voting conversation on campus.
Darnell Hunt, NAACP member, runs a booth each election cycle that aids students as they register to vote. This year was unusually active, said Hunt.
“I think it’s the best we have had yet,” Hunt said. “We’ve had some assistance — professors would come around and say, ‘yeah we’ve been sending folks your way.’”
The table, run under the Kansas voter registration project, also provides resources for voters to educate themselves on their specific ballots.
“We give them this website; it’s vote411.org,” Hunt said. “[The website is] nonpartisan and it gives all the information on the [candidates] for the county. Also, we will tell them to go to the Johnson County Election Office website and that has candidate information as well as voter information. A voter can look up to make sure [they] are still registered.”
Hunt is grateful to the college each year as he sets up this booth in the Student Center.
He said, “[I] appreciate the [college’s] whole administration for allowing us to come in and assist to help folks participate and do their civic duty.”