Despite the heat and Labor Day weekend, dozens of people gathered at Court House Square to peacefully rally against the current political climate in the U.S. The rally, called “Now is the time, Be part of the change” featured 11 speakers from Stroudsburg Mayor Tarah Probst, to Caity Stout, president of the ESU College Democrats.
They were joined by Pocono residents and a few ESU students.
“Any time you can bring awareness of what’s going on in today’s world to light and it’s peaceful, I think it’s a wonderful thing,” said Probst, who spoke about local resistance at the event. “We’re bringing up things that are affecting not only our community but the nation.”
The event was organized by the Progressive Democrats of Monroe County PA and attended by many other local left-leaning groups and activists. The main organizer and member of the Progressive Democrats, Mark Dodel said the inspiration for the rally came from another group, Labor of Love.
He saw they were planning to organize a protest for the same day. He said when he proposed the idea, people were nothing but supportive.
Many of the speakers touched on many topics such as immigration, criminal justice reform, women’s and civil rights, and
“Out of the [four College Dems members] here, we have about 130,000 dollars in student debt and we’re not even done with school,” Stout said.
Another issue college students may face is registering to vote and holding onto that right. For students that live on campus, the choice between reregistering with your campus address or voting by absentee ballot can be difficult.
“Chances are you walking over to [Lower] Dansbury and voting are so much better than you getting an absentee ballot and filling it out and sending it in,” said Representative Maureen Madden, who was a communications professor at ESU for years.
She represents the 115th district which covers all of ESU’s campus except the Ridge and the Innovation Center. “Don’t take those chances because every legislator in Pennsylvania, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, we’re all working towards the same thing.”
Commuters face a different challenge while voting, especially those that live outside of the Stroudsburgs.
Since they don’t have a campus address, they cannot change their polling place to Lower Dansbury and have to find time to go to the polls before or after classes.
Louisa Dombloski, Vice-Chair of the Monroe County Progressives and corresponding secretary of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, spoke about voting rights.
She reminded everyone that people who haven’t voted in two consecutive federal elections have been purged in the past without warning, making it critical to vote in every election possible.
Dombloski said that ESU students have had trouble in recent years determining if they are actually registered to vote and where.
She explains part of this problem comes from uninformed sources telling students they’re able to vote when they aren’t. “Somebody’s been sending out a blanket email since 2008 to students to say even though you’re registered to vote [at home], that you could vote locally. Van-loads of college students are being turned away because they’re not registered there.”
According to Dombloski, every time you change your address, you must update your voter registration. Dombloski also advised against registering on campus with outside groups like NextGen America due to their history of improperly registering students, leaving them ineligible on Election Day.
“College Democrats, College Republicans, and the Political Science Club will help anyone register to vote,” Stout said.
She and Dombloski suggest campus residents register at their campus address for elections they’ll be in school for (every general election in November) and reregister at home when they’re on a break, such as primary elections that happen in mid- to late-May.
This upcoming primary, however, will take place on April 28, 2020, while the spring semester is still in session. There is still time for students to register at their campus address for the general elections on November 5th. They can register until October 7th and check their registration at any time on votespa.com or vote.org.
“The most important thing is that you realize your power as being an 18- to 24-year-old,” Madden said as a message to college voters. “The power is in voting. That’s where the real power is in government… Democracy is a participatory sport.”
Students who wish to get more politically involved on campus and in the community at events such as last weekend’s protest can contact e-board officers of the College Democrats, College Republicans, or Political Science club.
Stout says all three clubs plan to collaborate often this semester on a campaign called ESU Votes which aims to motivate students to get to the polls.
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