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SMC votes hosts ‘Rock the Vote’

Editor’s Note: Crystal Ramirez is a former Associate News Editor for The Observer.

SMC Votes hosted ‘Rock the Vote’, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Belle’s Backyard. The event featured voting resources, treats and live entertainment. Bellacapella and the Pearl performed while attendees requested region specific voting information and voted for the Most Popular Dog on Campus.

Saint Mary’s students relax and chat during the “Rock the Vote’ event on Wednesday September 21.

Rock the vote was an event created “to increase voter engagement and celebrate democracy,” SMC Votes co-coordinator Libbey Detcher said. The live music, furry friends, and numerous resources fostered a welcoming environment for people to come and get information on voter registration and requesting absentee ballots. 

“[Rock the Vote is] a positive way to bring people together. I feel like a lot of people in our generation are passive, but if you want change you’re going to have to actively work for it and voting is one way you can do that,” sophomore McKenzie McDaniel said. 

SMC Votes is an initiative under the Office for the Common Good. “[SMC Votes helps students with] registering to vote, requesting absentee ballots or making some kind of voting plan,” Detcher explained. 

Founded in 2018, SMC Votes has worked diligently to improve the civic engagement of the student body. “SMC Votes started in 2018 after we realized our voter registration and voter participation rates were really below national averages,” Director of the Office for the Common Good Rebekah Go recounted. 

With an issue at hand, Go and the Office of the Common Good immediately took action under the new initiative. “We started making concerted efforts to get students engaged in the process [by] helping them register and figure out how to vote, which is complicated because absentee ballot wielding is not streamlined at all,” Go said. 

Since 2018, SMC Votes has made “significant strides” in increasing voter registration and participation with around a “30% increase” according to Go. The ultimate goal is to reach 100% of eligible voter participation at the college. 

“We’re trying to get students excited about the electoral process and this fall’s midterm elections,” Go said as she reminded students that “their voice matters”. The two clubs featured at the event, the Saint Mary’s College Democrats and the Saint Mary’s College Political Science Club, provide students with a way to get involved with the field of politics in addition to exercising their right to vote. 

“We are an official chapter of the statewide College Democrats of Indiana and we are here to represent and get more engagement. [As] a brand new club here at Saint Mary’s [we are] looking to build community and are excited for the semester,” President of the Saint Mary’s College Democrats Crystal Ramirez detailed. 

SMC Votes plans to host numerous events throughout the year including mobile voting, constitution day and educational events in the spring. “We are planning on hosting debate watches for district two on Oct. 4, and it’s just for students to come if they want to watch the debate, do their homework, de-stress, chill out, or whatever they want,” SMC Votes co-coordinator Jeanett Ochoa said.

Students should contact the Office for the Common Good at ocg@saintmarys.edu or stop by the Student Center for more information on voting and getting registered to vote.

“Everybody just wants their voice to be heard and I think voting is one way that everyone can come together for some kind of common cause,” Detcher said.

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Rep. Brendan Boyle, ’99, discusses career, current legislative efforts

On Friday morning, Rep. Brendan Boyle, ‘99, spoke to a group of students about his career path, pursuing opportunities in politics and current legislative priorities. 

Boyle, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania’s second district serving his fourth term, is an alumnus of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Program in Public Service and the inaugural semester in the Washington program.

Friday, he opened with brief introductory remarks and then fielded questions from students invited from various majors, minors and political clubs.

Ricardo Ramirez, director of the Hesburgh Program and an associate professor of political science and Latino studies, introduced Boyle. 

“Congressman Boyle has served as a champion for the working and middle-class families, particularly on issues related to social and economic justice. He, himself, is the first in his family to attend college, and he’s the son of a janitor and a school crossing guard,” Ramirez said.

In his introductory remarks, Boyle discussed his work across policy issues in the House of Representatives, identifying himself as a “generalist.”

“On any given day, I could be voting on energy policy, and then, next, voting on tax policy, and then voting on NATO, and then next voting on a welfare issue and next voting on a defense issue,” he said. 

Boyle, who serves on the influential Ways and Means Committee, recounted key experiences as a lawmaker.

Boyle was in Brussels days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, to which he’s a delegate.

“At our opening dinner, the vast majority of parliamentarians from the UK, France, Germany … did not believe there would be a war and did not believe there would be an invasion,” he recalled.

He tied the issue to political practice, saying he’s been especially active on the issue because of a large Ukrainian presence in his district in and around Philadelphia. 

Boyle said that this combination of constituent services and policy encapsulates the job of a congressman.

“There’s in the district and there’s in the Capitol. The time that I’m back home is not time off … So in some ways, it’s almost a hybrid of two different positions combined into one,” he said.

Many of the students identified themselves as residents of a particular representative’s district. Boyle interjected when a senior from Sarasota, Florida, mentioned he was from Republican representative Vern Buchanan’s district.

“I’m friendly with Vern, too. That should reassure people that people on both sides of the aisle actually are much more friendly with one another than cable TV would have you believe,” he said.

In response to a question about America’s role on the global stage, Boyle emphasized two priorities after reflecting on the Arab Spring and other events from the past twenty years.

“Two goals immediately come to mind, and they’re sometimes in conflict. One would be to promote democracy and human rights as much as we can around the world. And then the second is stability,” he said. “We can not retreat from the world.”

He also talked about recent legislative action. Boyle, who made history as the first House member to cast a proxy vote on behalf of a colleague amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, discussed being in committee hearings and voting during a trip to Notre Dame a year ago.

“In this very building a few floors up while my wife and daughter were enjoying campus all that Friday, I was up there casting votes and participating in hearings. So literally at Notre Dame, congressional votes have been cast, and I was casting my votes for our amendments, defeating the other side’s amendments for the Build Back Better Act, which ultimately did pass out of the Ways and Means Committee,” Boyle recalled.

He discussed the upcoming midterms and said that while “bread and butter issues” and contrasting the Republicans’ agenda with that of the Democrats under Biden, maintaining a big tent party is key.

“You have to tailor it to your district. The message I would have in northeast Philadelphia would be different than I would have in suburban Philadelphia,” he said.

Boyle also discussed moments when he had to make tough decisions in politics. Sitting on the foreign affairs committee, he opposed the Iran Nuclear Deal and remained steadfast despite pleas to support it from powerful places.

“President Obama lobbied me on Air Force One. Fortunately, it turns out the flight from D.C. to Philadelphia is a very short flight,” he said. “And I was never invited back.”

Throughout his remarks, Boyle emphasized the importance of getting involved in politics. He pointed out that people in high positions of power within congressional offices are often young and can make a significant impact.

“If you walk around Capitol Hill and you walk into congressional offices, you see just how young the individuals are who have a great deal of responsibility,” he said. “And I can tell you from the perspective of wanting to hire good people, we’re constantly looking, and the best thing you can do is be the person who, on a campaign, shows up, volunteers for things, is on time and has a great attitude.”

Contact Isa Sheikh at isheikh@nd.edu.