Hundreds turn out for early voting on St. Edward’s campus amid Trump, Clinton investigations

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Hundreds turn out for early voting on St. Edward’s campus amid Trump, Clinton investigations

Neta Bomani

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Today is Election Day.

For anyone exercising their democratic right to vote, here’s where the St. Edward’s University voting community stands on Election Day.

Early voting in Texas ended Nov. 4, and students and faculty flocked to Ragsdale lobby Nov. 1 to cast their ballots. A total of 631 members of the St. Edward’s community voted on campus, according to the Travis County Clerk.

Yet for many students and faculty, getting to the polls was the easy part. Choosing a candidate, is the hard part.

“It’s like: ‘Do you either want two-week old Chinese [food] or do you want to search in the garbage for food,’” senior Christopher Gonzalez asked.

Sophomore Marcos Ramirez kept up with politics and watched every debate, but still remains doubtful of the FBI re-opening the investigation over Hillary Clinton’s emails 11 days before the election. That said, the sophomore says nothing could change his mind at this point, claiming, “It’s too late.”

But Ramirez isn’t the only one. Within the final days left of the election, the FBI notified Congress of ongoing investigations on both Donald Trump and Clinton. Clinton’s­ email scandal was under investigation while Trump’s ties to Russia are under strict scrutiny.

The FBI investigation on Trump questioned alleged connections between him, and  those who backed his presidential campaign and Russia. The U.S. government has publicly accused the Russian government of interfering with the election by hacking the Democratic party, attempting to hack voter registration databases and releasing sensitive documents, such as Clinton’s emails.

Clinton’s emails have been questioned repeatedly due to the bureau’s investigation of her private email server use while serving as secretary of state. More emails were revealed in a separate investigation into Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin and former congressman. Weiner had been implicated in a sexting scandal with multiple women.

The FBI’s inability to verify the implications of either investigation has resulted in backlash ranging from statements President Barack Obama made while campaigning for Clinton to an open letter to FBI director James Comey from the 15-year-old girl involved in the Weiner scandal.

And recently, the FBI ended its investigation on Clinton – again, according to a letter sent to Congress on Sunday from Comey.

The convoluted and poorly communicated information on these issues has influenced the decisions of many voters, including several students and faculty on campus.

Associate Professor of Spanish Georgia Seminet teaches a freshman studies class on human rights in Latin America where the topic occasionally comes up.

“Sometimes I draw parallels in between the rhetoric, the things that we’re studying related to human rights and some of the factors that make the abuse of human rights more likely in a culture or society, like, exclusionary ideologies … based on race, religion, ethnic group, social class,” Seminet said.

Former Bernie Sanders supporter and sophomore Sea D’Amico has learned a bit in the classroom that influenced her decision to vote for Clinton.

“I’m a global studies major, so we learn a lot about democracy, sustaining it and how it works in different places and [how to] define that to our current state of politics,” D’Amico said. “A lot of my professors here are trying to keep us informed or trying to encourage us to be involved.”

Furthermore, Academic Advisor Erin Ray is one of the many people on campus that can provide support to students when they have questions.

“A lot of times something in life sparks an interest that students want to follow up on in their studies and certainly that’s something that we hope happens for students,” Ray said. “Then, we sort of help them find a way that they can get at that particular interest through their classes.”

Voter engagement has proven difficult for college students and millennials. An estimated 69.2 million adults are of voting age, according to the Pew Research Center. Based on the Census Bureau’s estimates of voter turnout, young adults such as millennials are less likely to vote than their older counterparts.

“I hope that [students] would reflect on topics that are greater than what is called to our immediate attention on the news,” Seminet said. “There are issues [in this election] that are bigger than any one individual.”

For second time voters like senior Stephanie Espinoza, this election is different.

“I’ve been so [much] more involved than I’ve been in past elections,” Espinoza said. “I feel like a lot of people have stepped up because what it came down to.”

Although he can’t vote because he’s not an American citizen, sophomore and Peruvian citizen Chris Azaldegui shares similar sentiments.

“We’re in a bad situation right now,” Azaldegui said. “It’s like a lose-lose, but it’s like there’s different levels to losing.”

This election has been one of the most polarized elections among Democrats and Republicans alike. Azaldegui, like many Americans, feels the significance of casting a ballot this year whether Republican, Democrat or other.

“It depends who you are too,” Azaldegui said. “I can see how the majority of the population could be bitterly affected if [Trump] was elected, but I feel like [Clinton] is the better option.”

A wider ideological gap between more and less educated adults exists along educational and generational lines with highly educated adults far more likely than those with less education to take liberal positions on political issues, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Our two-party system is showing itself to be very scary. And this is like a tiny part that we’re seeing that isn’t working… Now it’s really not working because it’s so polarized,” D’Amico said.

And while third party candidates have garnered more media attention this year than previous years, there’s still a way to go.

When asked what his reasoning for voting for Clinton was, Gonzalez replied “Because nobody is going to vote for Jill Stein,” and “I wish I could back in time and convince everybody otherwise, but,” Gonzalez digressed.

Academic Advisor Michael Kinsey reflected on the media coverage over the election.

“It seems to have been very little about any issues, policies, the genuine work that any politician might do… Just unbelievably negative – kind of hopeless in a way,” Kinsey said.

Frustration with this election hasn’t been limited to the candidates and their platforms, but also voters who faced other struggles that prevented them from getting to the polls.

Former Sanders supporter D’Amico expressed that she would vote for Clinton but has a barrage of voter identification issues to sort out, such as having a New York driver’s license and trying to navigate voting in Texas.

“I tried to vote here, and they’re like, ’Your [driver’s license] isn’t good enough,’” D’Amico said. “I did have my voter registration card, but they still wouldn’t let me vote.”

Some voters are still facing instances where they are asked to show identification, despite such requests being against the law. These former identification requirements violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting.

Within days of the general election, many Americans remained unaware of their state’s voter identification requirements.

About four in 10 voters living in states with no identification requirement incorrectly believed that they would be required to show identification before voting, while in states that do require identification, one-in-five voters didn’t know photo identification was needed, according to the Pew Research Center.

“They handed me a sheet and they were like, ‘You need one of these seven forms of ID,’” D’Amico said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have them.’”

All stress associated with the election aside, some people are looking forward to the fact that it will come to a close soon.

“I’m kind of looking forward to the end of the election just because it’s been a fairly negative episode,” Ray said.

“[Hopefully] the system will reboot itself and people will start to figure out the work that really needs to be done,” Kinsey said.