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Erickson, McLaughlin Help Educate SMSU Students About Election Process

Published Friday, October 23, 2020
Bella Erickson, left, and Carter McLaughlin
Bella Erickson, left, and Carter McLaughlin

SMSU students Bella Erickson and Carter McLaughlin are enthused about student interest in the upcoming presidential election.

Erickson, a senior Political Science and History double major, Criminal Justice minor, and McLaughlin, a junior Philosophy major and Pre-law, Religious Studies and Political Science minor, are Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) Student Fellows. They help students register, volunteer for campaigns, educate themselves on candidates and issues, navigate confusing voting laws and promote higher turnout at the polls. They are advocates of the democratic process.

“I’m a Political Science major so I believe in the power of democracy,” said Erickson, a Salem, S.D. native. “Students are an under-represented population; we tend to not vote as much as other age groups. I got involved because I think it’s important to have student voices heard. Promoting voting on campus is fun.”

McLaughlin said he believes that “given the state of the U.S. — where the political climate is at right now — this is one of the most important elections I’ll see in my lifetime. We do not persuade; we help students exercise their rights, and help them to know what to do.”

Erickson concurred. “It’s a non-partisan organization. It doesn’t matter who the students vote for, they just need to vote. Personal feelings don’t come into play. It’s about engagement.”

CEEP is a national nonpartisan project whose goal is to engage students in federal, state and local elections. Two fellowships were awarded to SMSU through the Center for Civic and Community Engagement, overseen by Career Services Director Melissa Scholten.

“While the initial ideas about events and voter engagement activities I’d thought about in February changed due to COVID-19 precautions, it has been wonderful to see the creative ways that Carter and Bella have created voting resources and connected with other student organizations and voting initiatives that are taking place on campus,” said Scholten.

The two have been involved with tabling activities in the Student Center and BA/CH link, gave a virtual session on Mustang Success Night, and have created a video (https://bit.ly/2Thn9QG) and voter information slides (https://bit.ly/35vVNfl) that can be viewed by students at any time. They’ve also talked to in-person classes, and acted as points of information for all students who may have questions relating to the election and the political process. The Center for Civic and Community Engagement, located in Bellows 161, has a large window display, including QR codes where students can go for more voting information.

“I think people on both sides are energized by this election,” said Erickson. “People are interested in voicing their opinion.”

McLaughlin, an Eden Prairie native, said politically, it’s a divisive time in America and he hopes “that people can be tolerant” in the days leading up to, and following, the election.

The two started in September and will be through with their CEEP duties a couple of weeks after the election, when they file their final report.

They’ve worked hard to engage SMSU students in the democratic process, and have benefitted from a rewarding experiential education in the process.