San Marcos,
10
October
2016

Election Activities Initiative Aims to Inform, Encourage Voters

By David Ogul

Democracy depends on it.

That’s the message from Dr. Scott Gross, Associate Vice President of Community Engagement, and Dr. Kim Quinney, Assistant Professor in History and campus coordinator of the American Democracy Project, who are spearheading the Cal State San Marcos Election Activities initiative to engage the university and the surrounding community in the Nov. 8 local, state and presidential elections.

“The job of a public institution of higher education is to help inform the community about the issues and where to find resources,” said Quinney, who noted that CSUSM will be the site of a precinct polling booth. “This is our duty and part of our responsibility.”

The Election Activities initiative is a wide-ranging effort anchored by a CSUSM webpage chock-full of information and links ranging from registering to vote to posting election-related events online. Other highlights include an e-version of the Easy Voter Guide published by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, along with Countable, a link that makes it quick and easy to understand the laws Congress is considering. And among the resources for faculty and staff are strategies in dealing with difficult dialogues in the classroom and helping students surmount political cynicism.

“Democracy doesn’t just happen,” said Quinney, who has become the point person running the project. “You have to make it happen.”

The Election Activities initiative underscores the university’s commitment to community, a commitment underscored by CSUSM being the only California State University campus with a Community Engagement Division. The Division of Community Engagement mission is to be a leader in creating positive community impact through meaningful connections and innovative partnerships between the university and communities.

“President Haynes long ago made a decision that community engagement is a priority for this university,” said Gross, who noted CSUSM’s renowned service learning and internship programs that place students into the community to put into practice what they are learning in the classroom.

Among the Election Activities initiative events was a Sept. 26 Presidential Debate Watch Party in the University Student Union Ballroom, dialogues on politics and policies, and an Oct. 11 Distinguished Speakers Series panel discussion, Women Breaking Boundaries: Elected Officials, an event including Judge Randa M. Trapp of the San Diego Superior Court, Escondido City Councilwoman Olga Diaz, and California State Assemblymember Marie Waldron.

Gross said the Election Activities initiative evolved from discussions months ago when it became clear the 2016 presidential election would be among the most historic in the nation’s history.

“We all asked ourselves how we could provide a hub of resources for our students, for our faculty, for our staff, and for our community that would benefit them in making informed decisions and engaging in enlightened discussion,” he said. “And what we have now is the Election Activities website.”

Events were planned within the framework of the American Democracy Project, a national, multi-campus initiative focused on public education’s role in preparing the next generation of informed and engaged citizens for our democracy. “The goal of the American Democracy Project is to produce graduates who are committed to being knowledgeable, involved citizens in their community,” states the American Democracy Project’s website.

Said Quinney: “We’ve worked hard on creating the Election Activities website, and I just hope people will find these resources useful and educational.”

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