Our Revolution, a progressive political group on campus, held a nonpartisan voter information session on Wednesday evening in an attempt to educate students on senate, congressional and local candidates in time for Election Day Nov. 8.
The big day is now only two days away. While the majority of students probably made up their minds on the presidential ticket long ago, most students voting in College Park are likely to remain uninformed about the candidates and issues at stake in the down-ballot races. In addition to the presidential vote, all students registered in College Park will have the chance to vote on a U.S. senator, House representative, three judges at differing levels of the court system, one statewide ballot question and six ballot questions that are specific to Prince George’s County.
Despite Our Revolution having a progressive agenda, the group decided that it was important to hold the event with very little partisan slant, in order to promote the pure importance of doing research on down-ballot candidates and making an informed vote.
Tatiana Bodnar, a sophomore government and politics and finance double major who helped put the evening together, said that the UMD chapter of Our Revolution is “focused on local and state initiatives” and has a passion for grassroots politics.
“We noticed that no one knows anything about [down-ballot candidates] like judges,” she said. She explained that the board members of Our Revolution, mostly government students like herself, even found their own knowledge on these issues to be severely lacking.
“We wanted to take the initiative to try to get people informed,” Bodnar said.
The event was held in the basement of Jimenez Hall, and had a casual, relaxed atmosphere. Free ice cream and candy was served at the front of the room, and as students filed in they were treated to a detailed presentation on every person and question on the ballot, as well as an open discussion of some of the more controversial election issues.
“We all assigned each other different parts of the ballot to research and present on,” Maille O’Donnell, a sophomore government and philosophy major, said of the preparation process for Wednesday’s event.
The research presenters went through to find voting records on some of the more obscure candidates, such as those those running to be a judge on the district court, was “painstakingly” difficult, presenters said.
O’Donnell added that Our Revolution also worked hard throughout the last two weeks to promote the event by setting up tables in front of McKeldin Library and handing out flyers.
Some students, such as Shelby Jensen, a senior sociology major, were offered extra credit in their classes to come to the event. Jensen said that although the bonus points were incentive for her to attend, she feels like it was a valuable use of her time.
“There were a lot of charts and information,” she said. “I feel like I learned a lot about the officials and their stances on issues.”
Overall, Bodnar admitted, she wasn’t “particularly optimistic” about the prospect of a UMD campus where the majority of students have done their research on down-ballot candidates. However, Bodnar said, all hope is not yet lost.
“If you have just a few people who really care and really push for things,” she said, “a little change can go a long way.”