‘Know Your Candidates’ helps students gain knowledge about their vote.
The Department of History and Political Science held an event called, “Know Your Candidates,” on Wednesday, Oct. 26, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event was intended to inform University of Indianapolis students about who and what would be on the ballot come Nov. 8. History and Political Science Assistant Professor Laura Albright, Instructor David Root, Professor Ted Frantz and Assistant Professor Chad Martin, all faculty members in the department, spoke at the event.
These faculty members presented the state and federal candidates that ran for office in the 2106 election, including Democratic candidate Justin Moed and Republican candidate Dale Nye who ran for Indiana House, 97th District; Democratic candidate Sean Gorman and Republican candidate Jack Sandlin who ran for Indiana Senate, 36th District; Democratic candidate John Gregg and Republican candidate Eric Holcomb who ran for Indiana governor; Democratic candidate Evan Bayh and Republican candidate Todd Young who ran for U.S. Senate; Democratic candidate Andre Carson and Republican candidate Cat Ping who ran for U.S. House, District #7; and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump who ran for president. Along with the candidates’ names, the professors provided some of the candidates’ political backgrounds. Bayh is a former U.S. senator and governor, and Young is the representative for Indiana’s 9th congressional district. Trump is a businessman from New York, and Clinton is the former secretary of state.
According to Frantz, many voters believe that presidential races affect them more than state and local races because voters focus on power.
“I think people gravitate towards their perception of where they think the most power is, and so anybody who’s voting now—unless they’re a naturalized citizen, but if they’re born in the United States—I bet if you polled them [and asked], ‘Who’s the most powerful person in the world?’ they would say the president of the United States,” Frantz said. “So they feel like because this is the most powerful office, ‘That’s where I should spend most of my attention, not [on] what laws are made that affect me on a daily basis….’ If that’s how they thought about it, they would care about those local elections a lot more…. It takes a lot to educate yourself on those local issues, and sometimes people have to have a fairly selfish reason for doing so. So when people do start caring about stuff locally, it’s usually because of some cause, whether that’s some sort of initiative about education or violence. And then they get involved, and you might get a really passionate spokesperson who creates a grassroots movement. But absent that, a lot of governing is boring…. People don’t want to watch the ins and outs of daily government because it’s not newsworthy. But somebody showing up, going to town hall meetings, listening to his or her constituency and trying to figure out where people stand, that’s the way the system works, but there’s not necessarily a story there.”
Voters also had the opportunity to vote on an Indiana constitutional amendment and a transit referendum to Marion County on election day. The passed constitutional amendment, Public Question 1, protects the people’s right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife in certain areas of Indiana. This amendment added a Section 39 to Article 1 of Indiana’s state constitution, and the proposal was on each Hoosier’s ballot.
The transit referendum proposed a Marion County economic development income tax of less than or equal to 0.25 percent in order to increase the accessibility, reach and efficiency of public transportation through the Marion County Transit Plan. The transit referendum passed and was on Marion County ballots only.
The presentation also sought to educate students about the voting process in general, including absentee voting, early voting, polling places, voter ID laws and voter fraud.
Freshman history and political science major Emma Kieffer learned about new candidates during the event and said that being an educated voter is powerful.
“I think that more-educated people tend to vote more, and voter turnout is so low, especially in local elections, which is ironic, because that is what affects us the most,” Kieffer said. “The people need to learn how big of a difference we could make. Indiana has always been thought of as this very Republican state, and people always think that it goes Republican, but just sitting in there, you learn how much the Democrats have a chance of winning. And if we can bring it towards the middle more, then more policies can change, and the whole ideology of this state’s political affiliation could change, and that’s just by people voting and coming out and caring and learning about it.”
Frantz said the history and political science department puts on events such as “Know Your Candidates,” as long as they have students who are requesting to learn more.
“We did something in [the] May ‘Know Your Candidates,’ and it’s really just a response to students that we come in contact with,” Frantz said. “You know when you’re at a school this small, we try to be responsive to what we think students want, or at least a subsection of what students want. And so as the history and political science department, we obviously feel like it’s a time when people tend to pay more attention. We want to do it, but also, the motto of the university is ‘Education for Service.’ And to talk about real-world events is really important, and this is a way for those of us who are engaged in the humanities and social sciences to show that we are relevant. These things do matter, and you should be thinking about yourself as a citizen, in addition to thinking of yourself as a student or whatever identity you have.”