Thursday, February 9, 2023

Panel discusses election

November 17, 2000

Sherman Garnett always wondered what a group of James Madison alumni and students would think and discuss if they were brought together.

The dean of James Madison College got his wish Thursday.

A panel of current students and politically active alumni came together to discuss the recent election and campaigns.

“I thought it would be useful for us to talk about this experience, especially since most of this is local at this point,” Garnett said.

James Madison alumni panelists included Adam Wright, who is state Sen. Dianne Byrum’s press secretary, Ingham County Treasurer-elect Eric Schertzing, recently elected Ingham County Commissioner Curtis Hertel Jr. and Jeff Williams, a political analyst with Public Sector Consultants.

Student panelists included political economy senior Jeff Roth, a Republican who lost his bid for the 69th District state House seat, and Luke Lantta, who was a field organizer for the Kids First! Yes! pro-Proposal 1 campaign. The voucher initiative was defeated.

Lantta is a political theory and constitutional democracy and international relations senior.

Each panelist gave a unique account of their experience with last week’s general election, coming from the perspectives of young candidates, campaign workers and observers. And each panelist agreed students had a major impact on the election, and should continue to do so.

“(The election) was really a battle, but once people realize the youth they’re dealing with, they pay attention,” Lantta said. “Don’t back down.

“If you know what you’re talking about, people will start to listen.”

Although the election has caused a lot of confusion - the nation still doesn’t have a president-elect and the area congressional race was one of the closest in the nation - the panelists agreed the chance to question our voting system was an exciting process.

“Welcome to democracy,” Williams said. “No one said it would be easy. No one said it would be pretty.

“But what a civics lesson.”

While the panel agreed the election in Michigan wasn’t nearly as confusing as in Florida - where presidential recounts are still ongoing - they were concerned with solving voting problems.

Several student voters experienced difficulty casting ballots because they weren’t registered properly or because they weren’t on the voter list.

“I don’t know how many students voted, but I do know that many were turned away,” said Hertel, who said seven students contacted his office with voting complaints. “We have to have a better system.”

Wright, who worked tirelessly in Byrum’s narrow loss in the 8th District Congressional race, said he has already heard talk in Lansing about altering laws that cause voter confusion and problems at the polls.

One such bill was passed last year. The legislation required voters to cast ballots only at the address that appears on their driver’s license. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, who defeated Byrum, says it will eliminate voter fraud.

The opposition says it’s a Republican trick to keep college students, who change residences often, from voting. College students are traditionally Democratic.

Jill Schwab, a no-preference freshman, said she was disappointed in the amount - or lack of - Republican representation on the panel.

Lantta and Roth were the only panelists representing the GOP.

“There were definitely more Democrats,” she said. “I don’t know if it was planned that way, or if it just turned out that way. But, I did think it was a good idea to say you don’t have to be a middle-aged person to make a difference.”

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