Debate watch party brings Rutgers students together from across the political spectrum

A wide range of organizations tabled at The Yard on Tuesday, all with a similar goal — to turn out the student vote

<p>Various Rutgers clubs gathered at The Yard @ College Avenue to watch the gubernational debate. Students had the chance to register as new voters before election day.</p>

Various Rutgers clubs gathered at The Yard @ College Avenue to watch the gubernational debate. Students had the chance to register as new voters before election day.

Students gathered around the jumbotron at The Yard @ College Avenue Tuesday night to watch gubernatorial candidates Phil Murphy, the Democratic candidate, and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R-N.J.) face off in the first debate of the race.

The Scott Hall bus stop donned booths set up by various student political groups where students could go to learn more about the issues and register to vote.

RU Voting, a non-partisan organization that aims to get students more politically engaged, was also tabling at the event and registering students, said Jessica Ronan, a School of Graduate Studies student.

Ronan said despite student interest, the organization did not sign up a lot of new faces, as many people were already registered to vote. But, she said, in order to vote from Rutgers, students must do an address change with their school address — students completing the address change form increases the number of students voting.

“I just think that it’s just important to come out and vote and engage because one day we’re going to be the ones reflecting the government," she said. "So it’s important."

Michael Zhadanovksy, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and president of Rutgers for Phil Murphy, said the group has been working since last November to show support for Murphy and push his key issues like legalizing marijuana and low-interest student loans for people at Rutgers.

“I’m also involved in Rutgers Democrats, before the primary (our groups) were separate, now we’re working together to make sure Phil Murphy and Democrats up and down the ballot get elected,” he said. “We’re registering voters and getting people to vote by mail ballots. So obviously it’s nonpartisan — if they’re Republican they can still register with us and we’ll still submit it.”

He said students should look at what New Jersey is like now and ask themselves if they are happy with that.

“I have a suspicion most people are not happy with that and whether we want four more years of that or we just want a new direction which is about progressive causes, which is about making an economy that works for all N.J. and not just the ones at the top which is what the other side is about at the moment,” he said.

School of Arts and Sciences junior and President of Rutgers Democrats Megan Coyne said the organization aims to work to support Democratic candidates on all levels across the state and country, and that was why they came to the watch party.

She said the group hopes to tell voters how important it is to participate in the gubernatorial election. If anyone is unhappy with what is going on in Washington, D.C., it is important to have a governor willing to stand up to it.

“N.J. is in dire condition right now — we’re in a fiscal crisis and it’s really not funny how bad the condition of the state is. And you now have an administration in Washington that is overtly hostile to basic American values (such as) tolerance, progress, diversity and it becomes incredibly important to have a governor and state that’s willing to stand for what you believe in. So we need to elect Phil Murphy and Democrats up and down the ballot,” she said.

Rutgers Conservative Union (RCU) member and School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Brandon Chesner said the group came to the watch party to educate voters on issues such as gun control. He said places like New Jersey have extremely strict gun control laws, which are counterproductive to ensuring the safety of the people voting.

“We’re really just educating voters, there are plenty of other organizations out there who are already registering voters. We also have a registration drive later this month so we want to focus a lot more on educating the people on important issues, especially since the Vegas massacre occurred we need to get more facts out there and less emotion in politics,” he said.

Chesner said that the overall reception was positive and a lot of people respect the idea of open dialogue and factual discussions.

Some of the biggest themes in the election are taxes and immigration, he said.

“We’re one of the highest taxed states in the Union, and all the economists agree high taxes lead to low prosperity in the state. Another issue is illegal immigration, which we’re very passionate about in stopping sanctuary cities,” he said.

Chesner said that college students are in a unique position because they are still dependent on their parents but also entering an independent field where they are becoming adults. Especially referring to tax reform, once students enter the workforce and get a job, they begin to feel the burden of taxes.

He said the RCU wants to prepare students so they do not have to face the same massive burden their parents faced. 

It is important for students who are interested in voting to research both sides from trustworthy sources, Chesner said.

“We feel that students who aren't sure should expose themselves to as many ideas as possible, try and get reliable sources on both sides of the aisle so they can make an informed decisions on what they believe,” he said.  

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