The University held a panel discussion titled “Why Vote?” Oct. 27 at the Ludwick Center Sacred Space, where about 25 community members gathered to discuss the importance of voting with midterm elections just days away.
Chairs were set up inside the Sacred Space for the discussion while outside food and drinks were available after the event, along with shirts that read “Leos Vote” for anyone who wanted one.
The conversation was led by three panelists – Gitty Amini, associate professor of political science; Jason Neidleman, professor of political science; and Dane Sawyer, instructor of philosophy and religion.
Amini shared a personal story.
“I did not get my American citizenship until I was in my mid-20s,” she said. “I was born in Iran and fled Iran because of the Iranian revolution and came to the United States in high school. Most of my friends in high school were excited to turn 18 and be able to vote, and I felt a little left out by that.
“It was very moving for me coming from a country that didn’t have fair, open, transparent elections to a place that values its democracy and values its input of citizens,” Amini added. “It was really a deeply moving experience to be able to vote.”
Neidleman reminded the audience of the history of voting for African Americans and urged everyone to vote with an understanding of the challenges many groups have had to gain voting rights.
“Use your vote to make voting itself more meaningful, to make sure that when we vote we are able to reflect our views in the democratic process,” Neidleman said.
Neidleman also talked about recent attacks on voting rights and democracy, with numerous states passing laws that make it more difficult for some individuals to vote, gerrymandering and more.
Sawyer emphasized that everyone’s vote, and voice, matters in this process.
“Politicians know that your age demographic doesn’t (always) vote,” Sawyer said. “So they can take you for granted. We often don’t know our values or what the community’s values are until we are given a chance to actually voice that point of view.”
Students, faculty and staff who attended were also given the opportunity to participate.
Zarah Vidriezca, sophomore legal studies major, said she has always been politically involved.
“I loved the idea of being able to reach out, get people involved and spread awareness, so that’s how I got involved in civic engagement at ULV,” said Vidriezca, who is also an ambassador for Andrew Goodman Foundation, an organization that partners with universities to promote voting and participatory democracy among young people.
“As a University and a community, we are trying to reach out to students and tell them, ‘Hey you have a voice, it matters, and it has an impact’,” Vidriezca said. “Our choices impact the people around us, and with our University spreading awareness and getting involved, that’s how we get the movement started.”
An email from Student Info informed students that they can cast their ballots from Saturday through Tuesday at the Abraham Campus Center, where the University will host an official voting center for the 2022 November General Election for Los Angeles County residents.
Neidenne Arevalo can be reached at email@example.com.