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Students share main priorities this midterm cycle

As election day draws nearer, non-local Notre Dame students are sending mail-in ballots back home to cast their vote, many for the first time. The issues they care about are varied, though abortion, both for pro-choice and pro-life students, is a common concern among students.

First-year Theo Austin, who sent his absentee ballot back to his home in Pittsburgh earlier this week, said he predominantly votes for pro-choice candidates. That meant that on his ballot, he voted for all Republicans.

“I view abortion as the murder of children and the fact that millions are murdered every year in our country legally is an atrocity,” Austin said. “While we can debate about economics, foreign policy, I don’t see any other issue having the effects directly on the lives of millions.”

Though she also aligns more with Republicans than Democrats, first-year Kerry O’Donoghue said her pro-choice views are among her strongest opinions.

“I have a pretty strong view on abortion issues,” she said. “I feel like forcing women to do something that they don’t necessarily want to do is probably not the best choice. Someone with more of a pro-choice perspective would appeal to me more.”

O’Donoghue, who is from Long Island, New York, said she will be “voting more for the person than the party.” Sophomore Daniel Jung, who sent his absentee ballot back home to Tampa, Florida, held a similar view.

“I’m a pretty big Catholic, so definitely someone who espouses Catholic values is something that’s important to me,” Jung said. 

Jung, a registered Independent, most strongly supports pro-life candidates but said the issue isn’t as important to him for more local candidates. On his ballot for this election, he voted for both Republican and Democrat candidates.

“For bigger positions, I tend to lean right because the issues get magnified and candidates take on issues that have pretty big implications for what the state does and the next four years,” he said. “But for lower positions like soil conservation, I don’t care what your stance is on abortion. I’m going to vote for the best person for the job, in my opinion.”

Second-year graduate student Kyle Dillon, another Long Island, New York resident, voted for all Democrats. Suffolk County, where he is from, is a predominantly Republican county and Dillon views his vote as important to show a Democrat presence in his local election.

“I vote Democratic knowing that my vote doesn’t really make an impact either way. It’s just showing the numbers that there still are people that are supporting a party whose voices still need to be heard,” Dillon said. “When it comes to midterms I’m not really thinking the most about the issues.”

First-year Molly Sullivan, from Palo Alto, California, said she will be voting Democrat largely in opposition to former president Donald Trump and because her views on gun reform, human rights, and racial and LGBTQ issues align more with Democrats.

“I don’t agree with a lot of what [Trump] says, so that kind of makes me go to the other side,” she said.

Junior Hannah Schmitz will be voting all-Republican on her absentee ballot, which she’ll be sending back to her home in Ohio. 

“A lot of the issues that matter most to me are the pro-life movement and my dad is a small business owner. So, whichever one he feels would help his business the most, and that’s usually Republican ideals, that’s who I tend to vote for,” she said.

But also there are many students who didn’t vote. In junior and registered Independent Dennis Hutchison’s case, he didn’t vote because he didn’t think it would matter.

“I don’t really think that who I elect matters because things in the federal government don’t really change all that much from administration to administration,” Hutchison said.  “I think that my vote locally matters more in terms of who my local politicians are because that more so directly impacts my life.”

Vicki Gillespie, a sophomore from Irving, Texas, didn’t vote because she was unaware of the process she had to go through to register to vote outside of her state. If she was able to vote like she had hoped, though, Gillespie said “education and making things better for marginalized people” were the most important issues to her.

Sophomore and Cleveland native Elizabeth Horwitz said she also would have liked to vote, but didn’t get around to obtaining her absentee ballot in time.

“I just didn’t put the time in,” she said. “I feel like, especially being at school, it’s a little more difficult to get the ballots and I never went through the process of getting it mailed. But I definitely would like to vote.”

Contact Liam Price at lprice3@nd.edu.