‘Why Vote?’ virtual event addresses student questions on politics

Greg Gancarz, Reporter

DeKALB — The Center for Black Studies hosted the “Why Vote?” virtual lecture event at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The event allowed participants to field questions to political science professors about the voting process and politics. The event lasted until 9:00 p.m.

About 30 participants, including the event coordinators and speakers, were present in the Zoom meeting. The target audience was NIU students, faculty, staff and alumni according to promotions for the event. 

The event was cosponsored by the Latinx Alumni Council, the Rockford Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and DREAM Action. It featured political science professors Brendon Swedlow and Matthew Streb. Streb is also the chief of staff to the NIU president. 

Topics put forward by the organizers included how the present participants defined voting and why only a minority of eligible voters turn out to vote. Questions fielded from the audience ranged from why the U.S. has a two-party system to whether or not a voter could change their mind after signing up for a mail-in ballot, and physically vote in person.

Streb, Swedlow and Associate Professor Joseph Flynn of the Curriculum and Instruction Department contributed the majority of the speaking. Streb emphasized the reality that the popular vote does not make a difference in the presidential election, and encouraged participation in local and state elections instead. 

Political subjects relating to the current presidential election included the diverging strategies used by both parties for securing the Black vote, among other demographics.

“When parties and candidates feel like they have to fight for your vote, they’re going to pay more attention to you,” Swedlow said. “But when they don’t feel that way, they’re going to devote their time and energy to people they feel they have a chance to persuade, or that they need to persuade.”

“The Democratic party basically takes [Black voters] for granted,” Swedlow said. “‘They don’t have anywhere else to go,’ is the idea. ‘They’re just going to default vote for the Democratic candidate.”

Speaking on President Trump’s 2016 election strategy, “His primary pitch to the Black community at the time was, ‘What else do you have to lose?’”, Flynn said. “Compare that to the RNC a month ago and the way that they really pushed this notion of being a more inclusive party attendant and considerate of Black issues.”