By Stephanie R. South, TDC National Coordinator
TDC members across the country have had a lot going on when it comes to our Constitution and electoral politics. It all got started mid-September with Constitution Day (Sept. 17) and National Voter Registration Day (Sept. 23) and wrapped up this week with the Midterm Elections (Nov. 4).
Below is a rundown of some of the awesome events that have been taking place:
@ Guttman Community College
Guttman Community College kicked off Constitution Day with a bang on September 17th. Organized and sponsored by Guttman’s Trending News Update Club (TNU) in collaboration with Professor Marcus Allen, Program Chair of Urban Studies, the event was dubbed, Guttman Speaks: Why I Vote. Students were led through a presentation of constitution theory and the history of voting rights. The discussion steered by Dr. Allen, invoked critical discussion about why voting is important in light of the challenges and trajectory of disenfranchisement many Americans faced.
This conversation underscored that voting is perhaps one of the most important and impactful responsibilities of citizenship and we explored two areas of voting: 1) disenfranchisement through the eyes of youths and 2) ex-felony voter participation.
Six amendments that expanded the franchise since the founding of The United States’ Constitution were identified and explored to emphasize the importance of voting by noting that nearly 1/5th of the amendments eliminated barriers to voting. Youth participation in election cycles since the passage of the amendment was stressed with a view to particularly illustrate the last two presidential, election cycles. Their participation in the voting process has proven to be an important contribution in the election of Democratic candidates recently with the election of President Barack Obama, and Republican candidates, particularly President Ronald Reagan. The discussion around ex-felon voting access centered on the various levels of difficulty that varies widely among state governments. Students were surprised to see that nearly 5.4 million Americans have either permanently lost their right to vote or have significant hurdles to reclaim the right. Professors Gary Greaves and Paul Naish were also instrumental in fielding questions and guiding the debate and discussions which ensued.
Students were treated to a short video presentation created by SGA Senator Richard Persaud, which launched an exciting debate and Guttman’s participation in CUNY Votes. The video can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/106348991. Associate Director of Leadership, Manny Lopez then introduced the Guttman Essay Writing Contest, “Why Your Vote Matters”, encouraged students to attend CUNY sponsored National Voter Registration Day at City Hall Park 9/23/14, and informed students about how to register to vote. The Essay Writing Contest is designed to allow Guttman’s students to analyze and express the importance of voting in a democratic, political system.
@ The Alamo Colleges
The Alamo Colleges TDC celebrated Constitution Day and National Voter Registration Day on September 17 and September 23 with a series of voter registration drives resulting in over 120 completed voter registration applications from students at Northwest Vista College, one of the five Alamo Colleges located in San Antonio, TX.
The voter registration drives were being offered in conjunction with voter education activities, including a planned Texas Governor’s Debate watching party on September 30 during which students enjoyed free pizza while watching Democrat Wendy Davis square off against Republican Greg Abbott.
As Texas has one of the lowest voter registration and participation rates in the country, The Democracy Commitment at Alamo Colleges is aiming to turn around these trends within their college communities.
@ Tunxis Community College
On Monday, September 29, 2014 four panelists spoke about an aspect of the debate on the legalization of marijuana and the U.S. Constitution. The panelists were Professor of History Robert Brown, Professor of History Fran Coan, Professor of Criminal Justice Ren Marchand, and Professor of History Rafaele Fierro. The topics covered an aspect of the topic including the historical perspective centered on the 18th Amendment, the issue of federalism, and law enforcement. Professor Robin Knowles moderated the event.
Click here to watch the video.