This election year is historic, with the country seemingly more divided now than it’s been since the Civil War. Several media outlets, including the Associated Press, CNN, the New York Times and Fox News, have declared Biden the winner of the presidential election. But votes are still being counted in some key states and lawsuits issued by the Trump administration aim to disrupt the election results and the possible transfer of power.
The country remains sharply divided between party lines and the results of this year’s election continuing to hang in the balance, those on either side of the aisle are nervous and fearful at the idea of the opposing candidate winning the presidency. And from political groups, to those varying in social and religious beliefs, students at Kent State are feeling the weight of the election as well.
“We would like to congratulate Joe Biden on his projected presidential win. We are proud to have supported President Trump and are also proud of his many accomplishments,” according to a statement from the College Republicans’ communication director. “In addition to this, we also celebrate maintaining Republican control of the senate and would like to note the record-breaking number of Republican women who ran for congress.”
Junior communication studies major and president of the Kent State Democrats Tyler Gardner said this year’s election is shaping up to be one of the most contiguous elections he’s seen and the race is a lot closer than expected.
Gardner said absentee ballots and the surge of younger voters has helped Joe Biden gain more votes than President Trump, but he still has fears for what is to come in the next administration even if Biden wins.
“I just fear that the next four years will be at a stand still,” Gardner said. “And Biden may not be able to accomplish what he wants with the amount of Republicans in (the) senate.”
Kent State’s branch of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) was heavily involved in Bernie Sanders’ 2020 Presidential Campaign. The group felt disappointed in the Democratic Party’s strategy for the election, said Andrew “Z” Kuhl, co-chair of Kent State’s DSA.
“I think, electorally, they don't have much efficacy and that they've done a really poor job of what should have been a relatively easy race,” Kuhl said. “Maybe it will be a blow out. Right now, it's looking much closer than I think most people thought it was.”
The DSA at Kent State’s main concern about the election is voter suppression, because states like Pennsylvania weren't allowed to count mail-in ballots until the polls closed, Kuhl said.
Kuhl said he hopes Joe Biden wins, but, regardless of who wins, Kent State’s DSA will continue to push for candidates in future elections.
“We believe we should be building a political power that is representative of a working class of people, not just the millionaires and billionaires who donate to people like Donald Trump, but also Joe Biden,” Kuhl said.
Kuhl said Kent State’s DSA will also continue to focus on issues regarding the “material interests” of people locally and nationally. One issue is the rise of the alt-right and what the group views as “fascist” groups, especially on campus. He pointed to 2018’s free speech rally and the hate speech written on the Rock earlier this semester as signs of their rise on-campus.
“I think there's a reason they come to Kent (State) and it's because this campus has a history of being a site of progressivism, but also a lot of conflicting views on activism,” he said. “The university makes efforts to help, but we still need to apply a lot of pressure to make sure that people, as a community, are safe.”
At Kent State, the Catholic Student Association is one of many organizations that are experiencing election anxiety in the days following Nov. 3.
Veronica Victoria, the CSA adviser, has been working full-time at the parish Newman Center in Kent for the past two years. She said it’s really important to be informed this election season.
“We (the Catholic Church) don’t endorse any specific candidate,” Victoria said. “Because I don’t think one specific candidate follows all the beliefs of the church.”
Victoria explained that the Catholic Church receives a message from the Pope during election years about making strong decisions.
According to popefrancisvoter.org, the current Pope Francis once said, “A good Catholic meddles in politics.”
“We are told to be informed and vote our conscience,” Victoria said. “I think every election is a concern just because we’re trying to do our best to be good citizens and to follow our faith.”
Regarding the differences in opinions on current president Donald Trump and his opponent, Joe Biden, Victoria said all of the issues being discussed are of prevalence.
“I think everything is important,” she said. “There isn’t one specific issue that’s more important than others. All life is sacred, so we have to make our best decision based on that.”
Victoria also mentioned her concerns regarding the outcome of the election.
“I just worry that, no matter the outcome, there will be violence,” she said. “That’s not the answer. That’s not the solution to anything.”
Omar Mallat, president of the Muslim Students’ Association, said most Muslim voters have the same concerns as the rest of the nation. Accessible health care and education, freedom of expression and religious protection, and the preservation of the environment are important to them.
Internationally, their primary worries are the welfare of refugees, the outcomes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States’ assistance in Saudi Arabia’s attacks on Yemen, which have killed thousands of civilians.
Mallat, who is a junior biology major, said he doesn’t anticipate much will change for the Muslim community domestically, no matter who is elected.
“In my view — and I’m sure there are those out there who disagree with me — I’ve never really felt like our faith or our institutions were directly under attack,” he said. “Our religious freedoms are not being stopped or blocked.”
While most voters in Mallat’s community are not fans of Trump, they’re not too keen on Biden either.
“Both sides have been pretty bad to us, both abroad and in the country,” he said. Their main issue with Trump is his character.
On the surface level, Trump hasn’t wronged the Muslim community in ways that they hadn’t already been wronged, he said. For instance, the travel ban had already been instituted to some extent by the Obama administration.
He anticipates a win for Biden would result in “a continuation of being pretty much left alone.”
On the other hand, if Trump is reelected, it’s possible the Muslim community may see an increase in discrimination and harassment, especially for Muslim women who wear the hijab, Mallat said. Many have concerns that the United States could see the same anti-Muslim hostility we’re currently seeing in France.
“I think Trump winning is going to embolden a lot of people with their views, and they're going to be more forceful in trying to accomplish their vision of America,” he said. “Just having the marker (of the hijab) makes it so much easier to be targeted.”
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) have made their opinions on President Trump very clear, however, they did not endorse a candidate for the 2020 election.
SDS President Colt Hutchinson, a senior music major, said the main feelings their organization has towards the election is that Trump cannot win, and that his efforts to “steal” the election are unwarranted and illegal.
“The key point is that we cannot let Donald Trump steal the election,” Hutchinson said. “We cannot let (him) use the courts to stop counting votes. Basically, people are going to need to be out in the streets demanding that their states continue to count the votes.”
Hutchinson also said that a majority of people think that simply casting their vote is all they need to do, but this is not the case. He said regardless of who wins the election, there will be a similar outcome.
“The biggest point that we can make is that obviously elections don’t change anything,” Hutchinson said. “Historically, the biggest change we can make across the globe is direct action, people out in the streets demanding change.”
Black United Students (BUS) is an organization historically known for uplifting, empowering and securing the safety of Black students across the country. BUS is a non-partisan organization, however, they are hoping that Biden will win the election.
Senior Pan-African studies major and BUS president Tayjua Hines said regardless of which candidate wins, they fear the reaction of the American citizens in terms of the safety of Black students.
“If (Biden) wins or if Trump wins, basically (the fear is) the response,” Hines said. “There will be no difference in who wins, but the reaction is what we’re worried about. If Biden were to win, how would Trump supporters react? If Trump was to win, how are Biden supporters going to react?”
As election results pool in, PRIDE! Kent’s reactions are a little mixed. While some are excited to see different results, others are nervous to think about what the next steps might be — whether that be Supreme Court trials or a surge of recounts.
“We’ve been trying to just be there for each other because, for LGBTQ+ people, this is a very stressful election,” said Angela Molina, president of PRIDE! Kent.
PRIDE! Kent is continuing to understand and talk about the fact that just because Biden may be elected, that still doesn’t mean that all the problems the LQBTQ+ community experiences will be fixed. While the ballot numbers are pointing in favor of former Biden, there is still a worry regarding the fact that it was such a close race.
“There were enough people in the country who thought we could have four more years of that,” Molina said. “And that's a very difficult kind of pill to swallow I think for some people.”
The American Association of University Women at Kent State (AAUW) is a nonpartisan, gender equity group that focuses on feminism and activism. Megan McSweeney, sophomore journalism major and president of AAUW, said if you look at the last four years strictly through a feminist lens, there have been a lot of things that are nerve-racking, especially with the recent nomination of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett replacing the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“From what I understand, she seems to have some not so great views on abortion,” McSweeney said. “We're sitting in a position right now, where it looks like that’s something that could potentially be overturned if Trump does get another four years.”
Regardless of who becomes the next president, McSweeney hopes that reproductive rights stay in place where they should be, which is with women and not with their state governments, she said.
Grace Grumbling, senior psychology major and secretary for Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Kent State (PPGAKSU), said PPGAKSU is unanimously hoping for a blue victory, not just in the White House but on all levels of government.
Grumbling said PPGAKSU is also concerned with the security of reproductive rights, but that the Biden-Harris campaign has made their dedication to reproductive justice clear.
“After 2016, we understand that it is possible that Trump could win again,” she said. “This would be detrimental to people everywhere and the Trump administration has made it clear that their goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw safe, medical abortions. While this is terrifying for so many, Planned Parenthood is dedicated to providing safe and affordable healthcare to those who both want and need it.”
Grumbling said PPGAKSU’s greatest fear is that not only does Trump win the White House, but that Republicans also win the vote on all levels of government.
“The way our group is currently looking at things is this: no matter who wins the White House, our work is not done,” she said. “While a democratic president could make progress a lot smoother, either way it takes people fighting for what’s right and making their voices heard to create change in our communities. We are ready and prepared to do just that no matter who wins.”
DREAM officers Jessica Miller and Shannon Aber said disability rights, accessible health care, including mental health care and policies regarding COVID-19 were the most important factors voters with disabilities took into consideration when deciding which candidates to support.
People with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus and have been treated as collateral damage during the pandemic, they said. President Trump and his supporters’ apathy has only exacerbated the problem.
“You hear them say, ‘Only a few people will die. It’s not that bad. Let’s just get back to normal,’” said Miller, a senior visual communication design major. “Well, what if you’re part of the disabled population?”
People with disabilities still need to go to work and go about their lives but can’t do that safely if communities aren’t taking proper precautions.
“The psyche of knowing you aren’t valued and that you’re seen as dispensable — that’s super harmful,” Miller said.
The attitude Trump and his supporters have toward the disabled population is also reflected in how they talk about Biden’s stutter, said Aber, a junior psychology major.
“When you have a leader who mocks disabilities, it shows a lot about how they feel,” Aber said. “It’s incredibly distressing and hard to take.”
Aber and Miller fear that if Trump is reelected, the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, and people with disabilities will lose access to health care at a time when they need it most — during a pandemic. They’re also concerned about police brutality, since experts estimate between one-third and half of people killed by law enforcement are disabled.
If Biden were elected, Miller said, “There isn't a lot to lose, but I think there's a lot to gain. He seems willing to listen, and that’s a vast improvement from someone who doesn’t even acknowledge there’s a problem.”
Aber and Miller recognize that a win for Biden won’t fix all their community’s problems, though.
“We know it won’t be an end-all, be-all band aid situation,” Miller said. “It’s continued work, continued activism, regardless of who wins.”
Maria McGinnis, Lyndsey Brennan, Sara Crawford, Kaitlyn Finchler, Morgan McGrath, Annika Cronin, Dante Centofanti and Nathan Mehring contributed to this report.
SUPPORT STUDENT MEDIA
Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.