The Importance of November 8

 Pedro dos Santos

Why do you vote?

I vote because it would be hypocritical of me, a Political Science professor, if I didn’t! In all seriousness, I vote because I believe that elections are our most basic right and duty. Without elections, there is no democracy. We can discuss freedoms and rights as much as we want, but if we don’t have valid mechanisms to establish free and fair elections, then none of the other stuff matters! 

I moved to the United States in 2000 as an international student and didn’t become a citizen until 2012. So, because I could not be back in Brazil during the Brazilian elections and I could not vote in the United States before becoming a citizen, I spent over a decade unable to vote. Voting in 2012 in the United States was very exciting, and the ability to vote here was the biggest reason why I decided to apply for citizenship.

Why do you vote in local elections?

Because I spent 12 years not voting, I did not follow local or state elections as closely. I felt I had less “skin in the game” even though I paid taxes and enjoyed the public services of the places I lived. When I started paying more attention, I was surprised at all the positions we vote for here in the United States. Most countries do not vote for their security forces (Sheriff), and in Brazil we do not vote for judges or some of the specific positions we have elections for here (such as Soil and Water Supervisor, State Auditor, and even School Board). The first time I voted I got really confused with the ballots, even though I study elections (and ballots!!) in other countries!

So, today I pay attention to as much as I can and I vote in local elections because I feel it is my responsibility as a citizen to care and keep these elected officials accountable. While the laws from Washington influence my life, I will most likely be more directly affected by what gets voted on at a School Board meeting or a City Council meeting than our federal laws.

Which topic or local race you are following the most this year and why?

I have one child in the public school system now, and my youngest one will enter the system in a couple of years. This year I am following the School Board elections more closely than others because there’s a lot of noise coming from outside our district and influencing the way some candidates are framing their candidacy to the school board. I want my children to attend public schools because I believe in public education. I want school board members to address equity needs in our system and our changing demographics (my family included!), and not embark on moral crusades against imaginary enemies. 

About Pedro dos Santos

Pedro dos Santos grew up in Brazil, where he lived in three different states. He has now lived in the United States for over 20 years. An accidental Midwesterner, he spent time in Kansas, Iowa, and now Central Minnesota. A resident of Saint Cloud since 2018, he enjoys spending time with his wife, two kids, and two dogs and getting to learn more about the city and the region. He is a Political Science Professor at CSB and SJU and enjoys graphic novels, stand up comedy, and basketball, among other things.

Morgan Van Beck

Why do you vote?

Voting is incredibly important and something that we should all do. As U.S citizens, we are lucky and have the privilege of voting, so we should use it. Many people do not have the same privileges and cannot vote, or they can vote but are prevented from doing so by structural factors that discourage participation like a lack of access to childcare or a method of transportation to get to the polls. Anyone lucky enough to have no barriers to voting should take advantage of that. The first time I voted was only a couple of months after I turned 18, and it was in the primaries before the 2020 general election. I was so excited to finally be able to cast a ballot and get one of those little I VOTED stickers—I had been stealing my parents’ stickers for years. When I was finally handed my own sticker by the poll attendant at the Sartell Community Center, my mom made me pose for a picture like it was the first day of school. In a way, it was like the first day of school because it was the first page in the chapter of my life devoted to civic participation

Why do you vote in local elections?

Voting in local elections is just as exciting and impactful as voting in presidential primaries or other elections. It actually might be more exciting because it is more impactful on our day-to-day experiences. We know the candidates and the people that their policies will directly affect. When I was in middle school, the mayor of Sartell was my gym teacher. We always thought it was so fun when he would come to class in a suit because he had a mayoral commitment the same day. Knowing the mayor made us all excited about local politics, but even if the mayor isn’t your gym teacher, local politics impact your life every day.

Which topic or local race you are following the most this year and why?

This year, I am following the St Joe mayoral race between Kelly Beniek and Rick Schultz. Now, I spend most of my year in St. Joseph, and the policies that the mayor helps to enact will impact me more than the policies enacted by candidates at any other level—and whoever wins this mayoral election can’t make me run laps in a middle school gym. 

About Morgan Van Beck

My name is Morgan Van Beck. I’m from Sartell, Minnesota and a junior at the College of Saint Benedict with a double major in Political Science and Hispanic Studies. I am also the CSB co-chair of the College Democrats, which has been very active this year in trying to encourage voting and civic participation.

Evan Mattson

Why do you vote?

I vote because I believe in Democracy. To be a Democracy, you must have free, fair, and frequent elections, meaning that I must show up to the polls to keep our Democracy. I also think about a time where my friends and family members may not have been able to vote, and realize that it would be selfish of me not to vote; it is my civic duty. 

When my first election happened in 2020, I was very stressed.  It felt like a do-or-die election, and with the pandemic raging on through my first-year at college, there wasn’t much else I could do. I had to go the absentee ballot route, being 4 hours from home, which I had never seen done before. I remember checking my mailbox everyday for my ballot, and once I got it and voted, checking to see if it was counted. I was relieved to see it counted, and when Election night came, I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. watching the election. When the results finally came in (several days later), I felt a sense of pride. I influenced that election – even though it was only one vote, I was still one of the votes. This is what people have fought for, have taken their lives for; this was surreal. It may seem dramatic, but I’m proud to be a citizen of this country, even though it is far from perfect. 

Why do you vote in local elections? 

After the Roe decision was overturned, and weeks of protests occurred in D.C., I realized that local elections mattered greatly. At the federal level, legislation affects you, but it seems so distant. Whereas at the state level, local candidates are at your door and in the community making decisions that impact me on a daily level. We have a huge surplus in the state government, and we have yet to spend it. Do you know what that could change? How about the water lines that make water taste old, or the Minnesota Grant that allows students to move up in society with a good job? Voting and advocacy work are the two ways I can influence that surplus, so why wouldn’t I partake in both?

The overturning of Roe was a difficult time for many, but I used it as motivation to show up to the polls and to encourage others to vote as well. Abortion, healthcare, gun control, and many other policies are on the ballot, and I know my vote influences those policy changes. Elections are often decided by a few hundred votes, so it makes your vote that much more important. I know politicians are not perfect, and some are corrupt, but isn’t that why we vote them out? 

I call on everyone to show up November 8th, mail in your ballot, or vote early. Your voice matters!

Which topic or local race you are following the most this year and why?

I have been an active member of a local campaign this year, knocking over 1000 doors. In this time, I have noted three major issues discussed: 1) Polarization, 2) Economy, and 3) Crime. I know, as a canvasser for the campaign, my candidate advocates against polarization, has been involved in discussions about the local economy, and has been advocating for more conversations about public safety, focusing on de-escalation training for police officers. 

Now, you are probably wondering why I bring this up. Local races are extremely important to me because even though I am not in his district, they have the chance of impacting all of Minnesota, from the Iron Range to the plains of southern Minnesota. 

About Evan Mattson

Evan Mattson is a CSB and SJU  junior political science major from Aurora, MN. He’s a member of the Men’s Chorus at SJU, SJU Senate Vice President, and Media Coordinator for CSB and SJU College Democrats. This past summer, he was able to intern in the PSRP department at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), in Washington D.C.