Titan Tuesday – American Democracy Project of IU South Bend
“Voting is not only our right—it is our power.” Loung Ung, Human Rights Activist
Indiana University South Bend is a member of the American Democracy Project network of nearly 300 colleges campuses nationwide, all fighting for one crucial goal: to increase the number of college students who will “accept the most fundamental obligation of a citizen in a democracy: casting informed votes for candidates standing for public office.” Elizabeth Bennion, professor of political science and nationally recognized expert on civic education and political engagement, is the founding director of the American Democracy Project of IU South Bend.
“The American Democracy Project is a nonpartisan project that is designed to educate students about democracy and about politics,” explains Bennion. “We aim to create college graduates who have the knowledge, skills, experiences, and values required to really make a difference in their communities.”
While the student members of the American Democracy Project of IU South Bend engage in educational outreach on a consistent basis, they have been especially active this year for the presidential election, organizing virtual debate watch parties, online lectures, discussion forums, and Party at the Polls, a National Vote Early Day celebration where the organization gave away free T-shirts, #IUSBVotes masks, custom pins, and more. Described by Bennion as “a mobilization effort to celebrate and encourage people to vote and remind people that Titans vote, that IUSB votes,” the event started on campus at River Crossing Campus Housing and concluded in downtown South Bend at the County City Building where participants could cast their votes before Election Day.
Christian Martinez, a junior double majoring in political science and economics, is an American Democracy Project intern, as well as president of the IUSB Political Science Club, who has taken a leading role in many of the organization’s outreach events this semester. He finds registering people to vote to be particularly rewarding: “Getting those registrations makes me feel like I’m making a difference and helping other students get politically and civically engaged. It’s so great to see people trying to make the change they wish to see by voting.”
In addition to encouraging his fellow students to vote, Christian also wants them to know the other ways they can make an impact. “Making your community a greater place does not start or end with voting. You can be an activist, help register people to vote, or join interest groups, like youth organizations or college clubs, to stay involved.”
Kerri Clark, a history major, is also involved in both the American Democracy Project and IUSB Political Science Club and finds educating people to be the most fulfilling aspect. “I’m always happy to have conversations and talk with people and help people get involved.” Although the presidential election is top-of-mind for most people, Kerri wants to remind the Titan community to also focus on local races. “Local races are often decided by single digit votes and those races are important for day-to-day life.”
For those who have not voted yet, the American Democracy Project wants to ensure they have the following information and understand their rights:
- The polls are open 6am to 6pm. If you are standing in line at 6pm, you should not leave, you should stay and cast your ballot. The polling location is required to stay open until those in line at closing time have voted.
- If there is any question about whether you are eligible, ask for a provisional ballot and do not leave the polls without casting that provisional ballot.
- Remember to bring a voter ID to the polls. That is a state or federally issued ID that can be your CrimsonCard, drivers license or Indiana state identification card, or federal ID like military ID or passport.
- The name on your ID does not have to match exactly in terms of your name from official registration forms, it just needs to conform. For example, “Elizabeth Bennion” would be the same as “Beth Bennion.”
The American Democracy Project of IU South Bend will be hosting “Coming Together: A Post-Election Panel Discussion” via Zoom on Tuesday, November 3 from 9-10pm and Wednesday, November 4 from 7-8pm. The IU South Bend community is invited to attend and ask any questions.