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‘I voted.’ What now?

| Monday, November 21, 2016

Last fall, we invited campus to join the civic engagement dialogue and enter into political life. It was September of 2015, and a slew of presidential candidates was spread across the field in the first leg of what would become a brutal and mud-slinging 18-month race. Blissfully unaware of the challenge that lay before us, we ordered balloons, pizza and pop, and invited the mayor of our 21st century city to help us launch our own campaign for voter education, registration and mobilization in advance of the 2016 election.

Now, two weeks after the election and fourteen months after the kickoff of NDVotes ’16, we have weathered a season of discontent which few of us forecasted. As a member of our team wrote this week, “It has become more than evident that people on both sides lack empathy and understanding; we need to do everything we can to make connections and practice empathy — beginning at the community and local level — with people who have different experiences and ideas than our own.”

Who was the “we” in our campaign? More people than you might expect. Our campaign staff involved around 20 task force members and nearly 30 dorm liaisons over the course of three semesters. Representatives from over a dozen clubs and groups, many of which identified as partisan or special interest, came together in a nonpartisan coalition which has defied party politics to become a tight-knit group of friends. Numerous professors got involved as speakers at our “Pizza, Pop & Politics” series and invaluable resources for questions such as, “How do we create an exit poll?” and, “What issues will most impact this presidential election?” Our two primary sponsors, the Center for Social Concerns and Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy, enabled political discourse and voter engagement to grow and flourish in ways we never thought possible. To this team, to all who participated in our events, and to the more than 3,400 people who stopped by our tables to register through the online resource TurboVote, thank you.  

On Wednesday, NDVotes ’16 hosted its final event, “What Just Happened?” This event was titled before the election, but it echoed a question which will reverberate in the months and years to come. At this event, we learned that the surprise was that there was no surprise. When it came down to it, we voted along the same lines on the same issues as we have in previous elections. The only thing that changes now is how we choose to react.

When the “I Voted” sticker comes off, you may find yourself asking,“What do I do now?” Now, we invite you to engage anew. In the words of one of our campaign’s founding doctrines, taken from the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” Citizenship and participation involves voting, yes. But a trip to the polls every now and then is only part of a lifestyle in which we are morally obliged to engage.

“For me, these next weeks and months will be a time to reflect on what has occurred and to determine how, in light of civil discourse, all of us can stay engaged and respond to what may not have been our outcome of choice.” This reflection from another team member ought to convict all of us, regardless of whether or not the election went our way.

So how do we engage and respond? NDVotes has three ideas. First, get involved on campus. A full list of the clubs represented on our task force is available on our website. Second, tell your elected officials what you expect from them. And third, participate in your communities beyond the classroom. There are numerous resources and programs for us students to be involved outside of the university during our four years here.    

We’ll close with the words of one of our task force members who sees the outcome of this election as an opportunity. She writes, “It has been encouraging to see so many people of my generation become involved in and passionate about politics, and I hope that passion will continue after this election. If this election has shown us anything, it is that we have a lot of work to do in government and many societal problems that need innovative solutions. I hope to use the energy and insight I gained from this election towards supporting campaigns and initiatives that will positively impact my community and my country and participating in local and state government.

The most important thing I learned from this election is that this country is huge and diverse, and it is important to try to understand people from all walks of life when engaging in political discourse or attempting to create change. I hope to operate from a place of compassion and understanding rather than a place of condemnation and judgement when possible.”

After ND votes, ND stays engaged.

Sarah Tomas Morgan


co-chair, NDVotes ‘16

Nov. 18

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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