‘Voting is just the first step’: Political student groups regroup after election, plan for future

Nov. 4, 2020, 10:55 p.m.

Political student groups are energized amid an intense and unpredictable election season. The groups — representing non-partisan, Republican and Democrat flanks of the campus community — also have aspirations that stretch beyond the election cycle, with many encouraging civic participation and keeping up community-driven momentum.

Stanford in Government (SIG) has been “intently focused” on this election since June, wrote Chair Antonia Hellman ’21 in a statement to The Daily. SIG has worked to increase civic engagement in conjunction with groups like the Associated Students of Stanford University and the Haas Center. 

‘Voting is just the first step’: Political student groups regroup after election, plan for future
SIG members with Kamala Harris’ Chief of Staff and Joe Biden 2020 Senior Advisor Karine Jean-Pierre. (Photo: courtesy of Antonia Hellman)

On Election Day, SIG held a “perpetual Zoom room” open for members to stop by and share their thoughts, according to Hellman. She spent the day phone banking and calling voters in swing states as a part of a get out the vote effort. 

Her initial reaction: “This is going to be an incredibly tight race.” While she was prepared to wait, the suspense was still “incredibly nerve-wracking.” 

Like Hellman, Stanford College Republicans (SCR) President Stephen Sills ’22 said the group participated in phone banking, urging supporters to vote for President Donald Trump. 

SCR has “done everything we can to ensure the President goes into a confident election,” he wrote in a statement to The Daily. “Regardless of the outcome of this election, we feel very content with the results thus far.”

Sills also expressed optimism about Senate results; while Republicans are winning crucial seats, Democrats could still gain control of the chamber, according to the New York Times. 

The Stanford Democrats also expressed confidence that their preferred candidate would prevail. Co-presidents of the group Kevin Li ’22 (who previously served as The Daily’s Student At-Large) and Ria Calcagno ’22 are “immensely proud” that former Vice President Joe Biden is currently “within striking range of winning the presidency and restoring decent and democratic leadership.” 

‘Voting is just the first step’: Political student groups regroup after election, plan for future
Kevin Li with Joe Biden (Photo courtesy of Kevin Li)

As of now, Biden has won more popular votes than any other candidate for president in history with over 70 million citizens casting their ballots for him. The record turnout is “something all Americans should be proud of,” wrote Li and Calcagno in a joint statement to The Daily. 

Li and Calcagno also congratulated “the diversity seen in many down-ballot wins.” 

Regardless of the outcome of the election, the group will shift resources to provide opportunities for its community to engage with policy issues. As the U.S. and the world continue to face issues, “there is always more work to be done,” they wrote.

Cardinal for Biden didn’t hold a watch party in anticipation of a drawn out election, according to President Chloe Stoddard ’21.

Like other campus organizers, the group engaged in phone banking prior to the election day. Additional leverage for their educational outreach came from the Cardinal for Biden Instagram page, where the group’s 1,000+ followers received information about how to vote.

While Stoddard hopes Biden will win the election, her fears about a prolonged battle in courts remain. 

“There is a lot of money that’s poured in from Trump’s side that allows him to be able to have things go to courts that he has filled with Trump-symphathist seats,” Stoddard said.

As a Wisconsin resident, Stoddard has been excited to see her state flip blue after the 2016 election vote for President Trump. This year, the state once again faces a possibility of recount, but she does not think that the process will result in consequential change to the current electoral map.

When talking about the other races on the ballots around the country, Stoddard said she was less optimistic about the outcomes: “I think it’s sad that we’re losing seats [in House races], but I don’t think it’s something to necessarily be completely concerned about, I’m more upset about what’s happened in the Senate,” Stoddard said. 

On Wednesday night, The New York Times called all but four races. Democrats have flipped two seats, while Republicans have flipped one, leaving the Senate 48-48. In the House, Democrats flipped two seats and Republicans flipped eight seats, with 40 races awaiting a call. 

StanfordVotes Co-President Sean Casey ’23 also held a measured approach to election night. He took the day off and caught up on sleep as the results were coming in. StanfordVotes is a voter engagement-focused branch of SIG.

This long-awaited break came after Casey helped lead campaigns to maximize voter engagement at Stanford through institutional action and digital organizing. According to TurboVote, an online tool helping students register to vote and stay up-to-date on election guidelines, Stanford outperformed other universities with 10,615 total student sign-ups from Jan. 1 to Nov. 2.

‘Voting is just the first step’: Political student groups regroup after election, plan for future
TurboVotes’ ranking of campuses with the most sign-ups. (Photo: ANASTASIIA MALENKO/The Stanford Daily)

Casey’s biggest fear in this election cycle is the persistence of the idea that “after you voted, it is all you have to do; your job is done, the civic engagement is over.” He hopes to see civic activism translated into more permanent infrastructure and culture at Stanford, making it a part of day-to-day life.

As the preliminary results continue to roll in, Casey encouraged students to have patience.

“It is very different thinking ‘Yeah, it is hypothetically possible that we won’t know the president on election night’ and having it actually happen, but trusting in the process and remaining hopeful has been my big takeaway,” Casey said.

President of Stanford Women in Politics (SWIP) Molly Campbell ’21 said that the non-partisan group is focused on turnout, engagement, discussion on the issues and candidates: “Voting is just the first step,” Campbell said. From lobbying to writing letters to talking to neighbors, SWIP is also committed to continuing civic involvement. 

This election has taught the group that “our country is a lot more complicated,” said Campbell. She recognizes that the “bubble” that Stanford students live in is not necessarily representative of the U.S. as a whole. 

“There’s so much work to be done to get where we want to be as a country, and as a society,” she said. 

Contact Anastasia Malenko at malenk0 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Anna Milstein at annamil ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

Anastasiia Malenko is the Vol. 261 News Managing Editor. Originally from Ukraine, she focuses on politics and international student life in her coverage. In her free time, she loves listening to throwbacks and catching up on book and coffee recommendations. Contact her at amalenko 'at' stanforddaily.com.Anna Milstein ’23 is a desk editor for Vol. 259 Academic News and a Staff Writer. Contact her at amilstein ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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