As the upcoming 2020 presidential election draws near, many organizations are encouraging citizens, particularly young people, to utilize their political voices and go to the polls on Nov. 3.
Three such student organizations at Mercer University are planning to host a presidential debate watch party Sept. 29 at 9 p.m. on Cruz Plaza.
Individuals that plan to attend should be prepared to wear masks, social distance and bring a blanket or chair for seating. Students of all political backgrounds are encouraged to attend and learn more about the candidates’ viewpoints on important subjects.
This will be the first of three presidential debates between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and it will be the first time the candidates will discuss these topics together on a public platform.
Mercer’s watch party will be hosted by Mobilize Mercer, Young Democrats and College Republicans, organizations that are all making efforts in different ways to increase the importance of civic engagement within the University community.
The event’s inception is credited to Kylie Brown, a junior and president of the Young Democrats and the national political science honor society Phi Sigma Alpha. Brown is a political science, history, and law and public policy triple-major.
“I went to the College Republicans first, and I said, ‘Hey, I think it would be a really, really awesome idea to have a debate watch event,’” Brown said. “Usually, each individual group hosts themselves in a classroom, but that wasn’t feasible this time around. We want to make sure everyone is staying safe.”
Brown also sought the support of Mobilize Mercer, a student-led voting initiative that organizes the University’s efforts to get students more civically engaged.
“I really love what Mercer does when it comes to voting,” Brown said. “All schools are required to have something similar to Mobilize Mercer where they help educate students. Mercer goes above and beyond with that, and they have an allotted amount of money that they use to get out the vote.”
Savannah Curro, a sophomore music major, is the events coordinator for Mobilize Mercer who is particularly passionate about making an impact through community collaboration.
“In our studies we’re learning to change the world, and I think one of the most effective ways to do this is by engaging with the community around us,” Curro said. “One of the ways we do that is by voting.”
College Republicans’ Chapter Chairman Alexander Hanberry emphasized the importance of establishing a comfortable setting for students to be involved in civic efforts.
“Politics, especially nowadays, is a very unwelcoming and toxic environment, and I think that turns a lot of people off,” Hanberry said. “Even though that can be true in a lot of aspects, that doesn’t have to be true here.”
Each organization has put together various efforts in the promotion of civic involvement on campus and in the community. The work has resulted in Mercer being recognized on a national scale.
“I think it’s wonderful that Mercer has shown such a commitment to civic engagement, particularly in regards to voting,” Curro said, referencing the University’s success in the SoCon Votes competition.
While some organizations have faded into obscurity on campus after an important election passes over, these student leaders plan to keep the conversation going after the political buzz dissipates.
“What’s really important is that we’re not only promoting civic engagement when there’s an election,” Brown said. ”I think the most important part is that we remain engaged and have a presence on campus.”
These organizations are going against the societal grain of stigmatized mutual loathing between the two partisan groups to bring togetherness and unity in society by hosting Tuesday’s event as a united front.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to reach across the aisle and get students involved and be an example that politics don’t have to be toxic,” Hanberry said. “Because, at the end of the day, what it’s supposed to be about is people wanting to get involved and make their country a better place.”