I admit that I’m a political nerd. I still watch as much coverage as I can of the summer political conventions. I stay up as late as I can on election night watching the results come in. My parents served as poll workers for many years after they were retired – and were still doing this up until they turned 90.
I still feel excitement on election days – even when I’ve voted early — especially when I see our students posting selfies with their ‘I Voted’ stickers. But on this election day, my excitement is mixed with concern about the spread of COVID-19 and about the political divisions in our country.
All of those feelings are compounded by nervousness about how people in our community and across the country may react to the election results and the very real possibility – with many millions of mail-in ballots to count and the potential for legal challenges – that we might not know the result for days or even weeks.
I want to encourage every member of our campus community to be patient as we let this process unfold. I know, after a long and difficult campaign, that is a tall order.
- We have seen long lines at polling places in some areas.
- We have seen in past elections (and may see tonight) polling places that run out of ballots or have to manage technology glitches.
- We know that there is a risk that this election could fuel an additional surge of COVID infections around the country.
- And we have watched as strong opinions about candidates and policies have led to heated disputes among individuals, friends and even family members.
I am proud of the passion and energy that members of the campus community, particularly our students, bring to this election. Our Badgers Vote Coalition of faculty, staff and students, co-chaired by Kathy Cramer and the Morgridge Center for Public Service’s Zachery Holder, worked in partnership with Associated Students of Madison and the Madison City Clerk’s Office to encourage as many students as possible to exercise their constitutional right to have a voice in this election. We are again participating in the Big 10 Challenge, seeing which Big 10 school will have the highest rate of voting among its students. (We came in second in 2018 during the midterms … I don’t want Minnesota to beat us again this time!)
As always, we encourage people to engage in vigorous discussion and debate. At no time is this more important than when the country is choosing its leaders. But I also encourage you to express your views, and your reactions to election results, constructively and respectfully. As Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. put it, “Broad generalizations, character assassination, questioning another person’s values or patriotism or harming another person or property have no place in our community.”
Many people have strong views about the issues and candidates in this election and I know that these next days may not be easy for some, no matter the outcome. Our inability to be together in person makes everything feel that much harder.
We are setting up opportunities for online discussions on Nov. 5 and 6 for members of our campus community to reflect and share their thoughts about the election, and each discussion room will have staff present to listen and provide support. I hope you will consider joining.
I want to thank all of those who have been part of our efforts to encourage voting and civic participation during this and past election cycles. We are committed to teaching our students how to participate in civic conversations, forcefully but respectfully. We want our students to learn how to build and maintain our democracy.