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Mason plans activities around the presidential election

October 30, 2020   /   by Anna Stolley Persky

George Mason University has planned a variety of activities related to civic engagement and the 2020 presidential election on Tuesday, Nov. 3.  The events include an election night watch party, several post-election support spaces and a variety of post-election discussions about the impact and outcome of the results.

Mason Votes, a university-wide committee of students, staff and faculty, is responsible for promoting and creating programming with a focus on nonpartisan education and awareness around voting and elections. Students involved in MasonVotes maintain a website, including posting and updating a calendar of events related to the upcoming election.

“The programs we have at Mason encourage our students to be actively engaged in the issues that affect their local community and the global community,” said Alissa Karton, assistant to the vice president for University Life and director of special projects. “At Mason, we’re trying to create citizens and community members who are aware about issues, are engaged and act to make their local and global communities better places to live. Conversations and events are important opportunities to encourage civic engagement and to let our students come together to learn more about issues and talk about them.”

Mason Votes was formed in 2007 to help encourage students in their civic engagement. Mason students have a history of comparatively high voter registration and turnout. In 2016, 64.9% of Mason students voted, compared with 50.4% nationally. In 2018, 52.4% of Mason students voted, compared to 39.1% nationally.

Students who reside on campus and are registered to vote in Virginia vote at Merten Hall, which will be open on Election Day between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The election night watch party will occur between 7 and 11 p.m. in the Hub Ballroom, in accordance with COVID-19 event guidelines. Registration is required.

“This is a place for students to hang out, watch the election results come in and eat free food,” said Ben Endres, assistant director of Student Involvement. “It’s so important that students have an option to be around other students for this election.”

There will also be a variety of post-election support spaces for students to talk about how they are feeling about the results of the election. For example, Counseling and Psychological Services is hosting a space for students to connect and process with other students the day after the election at 6 p.m. Registration is required. More resources can be access here.

“We wanted to be prepared to provide students in this incredibly polarized environment a way to talk about the results, whatever they are,” said Kristen Wright, director of civic engagement in the Office of the Provost’s Undergraduate Education.

The Schar School of Policy and Government has also been hosting a Power Lunch event series related to the next four years of U.S. public policy. The Power Lunch on Friday, Nov. 6, titled “National Unity,” will feature a panel that includes former Republican Congressman and former rector of Mason's Board of Visitors Tom Davis. In addition, the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution has been hosting a webinar series titled “Can We Still be Friends: A Discussion on How to Preserve Relationships During an Election.”

Mason students are also invited to join Professor Jennifer Victor’s GOVT 103 Introduction to American Politics class at the Schar School via a Zoom link for a post-election conversation at noon on Thursday, Nov. 5.

“It feels really good to know that Mason cares that we are civically engaged,” said Vanessa Soares da Silva, an Honors College sophomore  majoring in government and international politics.” A lot of people have anxiety right now over the election so it’s great that Mason provides us with opportunities to talk about it afterwards.”