This fall, Americans once again have the opportunity to vote in a presidential election, something that usually only happens once during a student’s four years at college. Both students and faculty are voting in several different ways this election, something that matches the rest of the country. According to the US Elections Project, more than 27 million ballots have already been returned, and students and faculty at Waynesburg University are taking advantage of opportunities like mail-in ballots to vote early.
“I am registered to vote and have already mailed in my ballot. I live 3.5 hours away from campus in a small town in Maryland, so going home to vote wasn’t really an option for me,” Christopher Hulse, a senior sports broadcasting and sports information major, said. ”I voted by mail in the 2018 midterm elections, so I have faith in the process.”
Other people are choosing to vote early in-person, while some still plan to vote in-person the day of the election.
“I’m going to vote in person,” Dr. Larry Stratton, professor of political science at Waynesburg University, said. “Just for the fun of it, I plan to be the first person to vote in my precinct.”
Both students and faculty will be following the happenings of election night closely, even though it may drag on late into the night, or even later on the week.
“I expect it will be a late night, and I expect that we will not know the answer,” Stratton said. “They can keep counting [Pennsylvania’s] absentee ballots until Friday.”
Although the results may not be clear immediately, students are still interested in the outcome and will be watching it closely.
“I plan to watch it here at Waynesburg, since we will still be here,” Adam Dolan, a senior accounting major, said.
One way that students can follow the events of election night is by tuning into WCTV’s four hour election night special. According to Hulse, the producer of the special, the show will feature interviews both with people on campus and various political figures.
“Our hosts will be talking to students, faculty members, and members of the community to get their thoughts on this year’s election,” he said. “We will also be interviewing Rep. Pam Snyder and Larry Yost who are running for the PA House of Representatives in our district, as well as 2020 Presidential candidate Sam Robb.”
Sam Robb is a member of the Libertarian Party and ran for the party’s nomination for President.
There are several issues that students and faculty see highlighted in this election. According to Stratton, the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is very controversial.
“COVID is an issue. The different parties have a different sense of the relative importance of that issue going forward. I think that there is a resentment against the lockdowns in many states, including Pennsylvania, and that resentment will drive some people to vote for Trump,” Stratton said. “And other people think that there hasn’t been enough coercive power to strikedown and to combat the virus, and those people would vote for Biden.”
The economy is an important issue for Dolan.
“As an accounting major, I think that the economy and taxation is important and that’s what I focus on as a voter,” Dolan said.
However, Stratton thinks that the deciding factor for many people is not how much they like one candidate or the other. Instead, some people are voting for one candidate because of how much they dislike the other. He also thinks that the American people are divided over the two major choices.
“Sadly, Americans are pretty divided and polarized right now, Stratton said. “There are a lot of people who will be upset one way or the other at the outcome of the election.”
Hulse doesn’t expect the outcome of the election to be any more or less divisive if any candidate wins, and he doesn’t expect a clear winner to emerge by the end of election night.
“I think that post-election will be the most divisive day among Americans in my lifetime and I think that’s true regardless of which candidate wins. It looks more and more likely that we won’t know which candidate won by the end of Election Day, and maybe not even for a week or so after the election has ended,” Hulse said. “That time period will be extremely tumultuous, especially if we see President Trump with a lead that starts to slide after mail-in ballots start to be counted for Biden.”
According to Stratton, it is important for students to get involved and to start shaping the country’s future.
“It’s part of our duty and responsibility as citizens. Objectively, if you look at the university campus, you all will have more elections in your future than I will have. It is your part to shape your destiny and to be involved in the political process, which is a great privilege,” Stratton said. “I hope and believe that many students from Waynesburg will have a powerful role in the shaping of the political discourse in the years ahead, and that is what gives me hope every day as I walk to work.”