It’s Prime Time for Allegheny’s Center for Political Participation

From hosting forums among candidates for local political office to encouraging students to vote in the Nov. 3 national election, Allegheny College’s Center for Political Participation (CPP) has a very busy few weeks ahead.

Student members of the CPP, along with MitzVote, Rock the Vote and the Andrew Goodman Foundation, have been working on outreach efforts with student groups, such as athletics, Greek organizations and Allegheny Student Government to “get out the vote” for what many see as a crucial national election.

Brian Harward

“During a time of immense upheaval, isolation, division, and crisis, the Center for Political Participation and the Law & Policy Program are trying to provide contexts that facilitate connectedness, thoughtfulness, and cultivate students’ civic agency,” said Brian Harward, director of the Center for Political Participation and the Robert G. Seddig Chair in Political Science.

“It’s not easily done under the current conditions, but it is critically important for us to provide the opportunities and the information for students to be full participants in the civic lives of our communities,” Harward said. “The student fellows of the CPP are collaborating with students and groups across campus, registering voters, helping their peers navigate the uncertainties of election rules in Pennsylvania and in their home states, and offering town halls, lectures, and events that reflect our year-long attention to our theme of ‘Seeking Justice in a Divided Nation’.”

The CPP has hosted presidential debate watch parties, held town hall meetings on subjects like the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and virtually hosted speakers, including Anne Gearan, a 1985 Allegheny graduate and Washington Post reporter.

But there’s much more to come.

On Monday, Oct. 12, at 5 p.m. there will be a Quigley Town Hall, “What’s Your Voting Plan?” Voter applications will be made available at this event. On Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. Dr. Christopher Towler will discuss “The Politics of Sports: How Black Athletes Can Change the Game.”

On Monday, Oct. 19, the CPP will host several local candidate forums. The first, at 6 p.m. will feature Democratic challenger Kristy Gnibus, who is vying for the 16th District Congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly. He also has agreed to participate in a CPP candidate forum; scheduling details are being finalized. In the second forum on Oct. 19, at 7 p.m., Democrat Matthew Ferrence will talk about his campaign for the Pennsylvania 6th District Legislature, a seat currently held by State Rep. Brad Roae, who declined to participate.

Monday, Oct. 19, is also the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania for the Nov. 3 election.

On Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 12:45 p.m., the CPP will host a Quigley Town Hall: “Civic Values and Public Discourse” with facilitators Jon Wiebel, assistant professor of communication arts, and Aubrey Hall, a junior political science major and communication minor. If the presidential debate goes on as scheduled on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 9 p.m., the CPP will host a watch party and discussion.

During the week of Oct. 26, there will be, on an as-yet-to-be-determined date, a Quigley Town Hall: “What to Expect November 3” that will attempt to answer questions such as: What happens if we don’t have results? There will also be a voter information session — know your rights, your polling location and what to bring.

Tuesday, Oct. 27, is the official deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot in Pennsylvania. All applications must be received in the Crawford County Board of Elections office by that time. Postmarks do not count. The deadline to return a completed ballot is 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Allegheny College senior Emma Godel.
Allegheny College senior Emma Godel.

On Election Day, the CPP will offer rides to polls for in-person voting (two large school buses will go up and down North Main Street, and there will be Election Day activities, games and T-shirts under the tent at the bus stop. There will also be an election return watch party in Quigley Auditorium (capacity of 25). On Wednesday, Nov. 4, there will be a Quigley Town Hall: “What Do We Know and What’s Next?”

Emma Godel, a CPP fellow and senior from South Berwick, Maine, said that as a student organizer, “I have a short-term and a long-term goal. This fall, I’m striving for maximum student registration rates, but more importantly, I also want extremely high voter turnout. Meanwhile, in the long-term, my goal is for voter education and engagement to be institutionalized — I want these ideas to be key elements of campus culture. It’s also essential that the students themselves take the lead on this, to set an example for their peers and highlight issues that are particularly important to young voters.”

Godel, a political science major and psychology and music theory double minor, said the CPP fellows have also produced posters and videos that connect this year’s ballot to lots of different academic disciplines. “Basically, despite this pandemic, we’re doing whatever we can to reach students in ways that appeal to them, in hopes of empowering them this November,” Godel said.

She added that, in her view, “democracy really is at stake here, and young voters have a chance, and an obligation, to maintain it for future generations. So, regardless of partisan preferences, please vote this November.”