For many of us, the 2016 U.S. national election feels like it was just yesterday. The 24-hour news on repeat, and friends and family texting and calling as emotions flooded the populace still feels familiar and fresh. Yet, two years later, the nation is heading back to the polls for a different type of election: the midterm elections. In order to spread awareness, an event was held, titled Community Dialogue: Midterm Matter.
The event took place in EUC Alexander at 6 p.m. on Sept. 19. It was put together by two on-campus organizations, the Office of Intercultural Engagement (OIE) and the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement (OLCE).
Participants walked in slowly, one by one, as OIE and OLCE members set-up the rules and procedures for having a civil conversation and a respectful dialogue. Before continuing to have such interaction, the topics needed to be discussed and then organized. Everyone shuffled in their seats before the topics were raised and written on a board for all to see.
Although this dialogue concentrated around the midterm elections, the subcategories of such a complex subject varied from talking about the foundations of our democracy, all the way to how we viewed our day-by-day news, specifically focusing on the origins of our sources of information.
In order to get to the true meaning of midterm elections, all of those topics had to be arranged and spoken through, and that is exactly what this dialogue achieved.
Shanelle Tate, a junior studying Political Science at UNCG, had certain expectations for the dialogue.“There are some things that I am so gray about, that I am not quite aware of,” said Tate. Like many university students, Tate wants to learn more and be an informed voter. Coming to events such as these helps her to become a more active part of the electorate through gaining knowledge and understanding of what it means to vote.
Maurice Smith, a junior studying sociology & criminology at UNCG, agrees. “I want to contribute to the community rather than just putting in my vote and saying ‘That’s it’.” Smith places importance on giving back and spreading information that others may not know about. Even though he understands the voting process, the one thing he hoped to get out of the dialogue was how much the process will affect him and how, from that experience, he can learn and share that knowledge with others.
The dialogue rules are simple and straightforward, but fundamental for having a conversation that revolves around respect, confidentiality and optimizing the sharing-and-learning experience for both the speaker and the listener. After those rules were discussed, the topics were fleshed out. Once the topics were chosen, the dialogue began.
Because midterm elections are a multi-dimensional concept, the topics varied but all fell under the umbrella of what was important to the present-day voter. The main three topics that were left after being separated from the rest by the OIE and OLCE members were things that fell under democracy, the meaning of voter ID, sources, education, and last but not least, immigration. The discussion was one filled with different experiences expressed in an understanding manner that let everyone participate equally.
After about an hour of discussion about those topics, the members showed the guests how to register to vote here locally. The following is how to register to vote:
First, go to the site https://vt.ncsbe.gov/. Here, one will find all the information one needs to register here in North Carolina. If one forgets to register, he or she can change their registration, register to vote and vote at the same time during early vote between Oct. 17 and Nov. 3. If you wait to vote till Election Day, you must already have been registered to vote. It is important for students to remember that if you change dorms, you have to re-register or change the information that you already have on the site every year.
The midterm happens every two years, and one will be voting for state house, state senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, school boards and North Carolina constitutional amendments- all of which will be up for vote. To view exactly what your ballot will look like, you can go to North Carolina Voter Search, type in your information and see specifically what will be on your unique ballot. You will also be able to see your voting site! This is a great resource to get you up-to-date on what the midterm elections will be like for you.
“It was nice to hear other people’s experience and reflect on that myself,” said Tate as she pondered about the dialogue. For Tate, the dialogue produced a self-reflection on what these elections truly meant and what she wanted to get out of them. Smith feels the same way. “It makes me understand other people’s point-of-view and gives me more to think about rather than just my own experience.”
Community Dialogues are a great way to understand topics that you may not be knowledgeable of and makes a great space for getting to know your peers in a deeper way. The next Community Dialogue takes place Sept. 27 in EUC Maple from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. which is titled African American Voices on Addiction & Recovery.