This year students are using their power to vote in the presidential election and understand what that impact means.
Last Tuesday night, a panel of local elected officials took part in an educational meeting on voting and the power of an individual’s vote.
A virtual panel called “The Power of the Vote” was held by Bradley’s Black Alumni Alliance (BUBAA) in partnership with Bradley’s Black Student Alliance, National Society of Black Engineers, NAACP and National Panhellenic Council.
The panel consisted of congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois’s second congressional district, Peoria mayoral candidate Rita Ali and Stacey Rose, a board member of BUBAA who served as the moderator. Participants were able to ask questions through a Q&A chat through the app.
According to Markist Booker, the BUBAA marketing chair and a 2015 Bradley alumnus, the event is part of a series of virtual panel events that have been going on since August.
Booker hopes that participants took away that voting is more than an act people do every couple of years.
“Your vote is your voice, and your voice should be heard,” Booker said. “Voting is so important now and whoever will be president will be impacting everyone, so vote for someone who lives their values.”
The discussion topics ranged from how the election process works, voter fraud, common falsehoods of voting, mail-in ballots, issues the panelists are looking at this election and long voting lines among other topics.
On the topic of voter fraud, Ali said that while it is a possibility, it is not as prevalent as some may think.
“There are systems in place to stop voter fraud from occurring,” Ali said. “It’s important to follow the right process, and if you are voting by mail, you can check to see that your ballot arrived at the polling place.”
On the topic of common falsehoods such as not voting because an individual does not like the candidates, Ali said that it goes farther than just one candidate.
“You are voting for all these other offices,” Ali said. “Decisions affect daily lives, communities and the future. Vote on issues that are important to you. Frederick Douglass said that ‘slavery is not dead until a Black man has a ballot.’”
Some of the questions asked by participants consisted of where candidates stood on certain issues: advice on mail-in ballots, thoughts on term limits for elected officials and how minors can be involved in elections.
When asked about the mental health toll that goes into voting and campaigning as part of an election, each candidate expressed that people should not give up and to stay involved. Congresswoman Kelly used her experience of losing her statewide campaign for Illinois Treasurer as an example.
“You can still contribute and make a difference,” Kelly said. “It is a hurtful feeling, but that is the chance you take.”
When the panelists were asked to share a message regarding the election, it was clear.
“Vote like your life depends on it because it does,” Kelly said. “And do not take anything for granted.”
Rose ended the panel by letting the panelists leave closing remarks and she left a remark from something she had come across.
“Elect people who look like you and think like you, and if they do not exist, then maybe it is you,” Rose said. “No matter what happens on Nov. 3, please remember that you have the power to create change, inspire change and even be the change. There is power in your vote.”