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“Community Conversations” come together to discuss upcoming election season

Patrick Houlihan led a community conversation about supporting democracy.
Patrick Houlihan led a community conversation about supporting democracy.

November’s primary election is creeping up, and junior political science major and ASG’s Secretary for Governmental Relations Patrick Houlihan intends to get the community more involved and informed through “community conversations.”

Tuesday night’s 12 attendees at Lane Library were a mix of community members and the Butler County Progressive Political Action Committee. As a group, they discussed topics like voting restrictions, voter apathy and what issues students are most engaged with.

In his conversation, Houlihan started with the importance of the youth vote and how Gen Z will make up 21% of the voters by 2025.

“We need to get that number up and generally, this is what the conversation is about,” Houlihan said. “How to get people engaged, how to get people interested in going to the ballot box and making your voice heard.”

The next topics touched on were voter restrictions and voter apathy. Houlihan said he noticed problems during the November 2023 election when Issues 1 and 2 were on the ballot. Students were being turned away because of newly implemented restrictions and didn’t know how to advocate for themselves.

Examples of this were the new voter I.D. laws and the difficulties of using mail-in ballots.

“[This is especially hard] when you're used to voting one way if you've already started voting and then the rules change,” Houlihan said. “You're back to square one. You don't know where to start.”

He also touched on how students aren’t always aware of new laws or have the correct resources to allow them to get around possible walls to cast their ballots.

Houlihan said voter apathy has hit Gen Z hard because it’s predicted they will be the first generation to have a worse quality of life than their parents because of issues like inflation, the housing crisis, attacks on education and power imbalances in the workplace.

“This leads to Gen Z not having faith in the system, and then subsequently not voting,” Houlihan said. “It's hard to get to the ballot box if you feel like your vote doesn’t count.”

Houlihan said Gen Z not only lacks trust in the system, but its way of thinking is also different from that of previous generations. Houlihan pointed out the increased support of issues like Roe v. Wade and the legalization of marijuana in comparison to supporting a single candidate.

The talk ended with an open discussion, where everyone was separated into two groups and were given issues to deliberate on and come up with possible solutions.

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Don Daiker, the founding president emeritus of the Butler County Ohio Progressive Political Action Committee, went to the meeting to support a group he has been involved with for years.

“The end goal of this group is to elect more progressives on the local, state and federal level,” Daiker said.

Another member, Margarette Beckwith, agreed with Daiker’s sentiment of showing up to support the group and what they stand for.

“We would love to have more students but I realized students are busy and they're far away …” Beckwith said, “... But we're really impressed because there are a lot of things that we want to do but I see now that he's got so many things covered. So we'll help where we can.”