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Campus political groups prep for the election amidst COVID-19

Political organizations on campus still plan on gearing up for the 2020 election, even through a global pandemic. 

Organizations like the Ohio University College Republicans and OU College Democrats are still preparing for elections in November through the same conventional methods they have used in the past, but now, remotely. 

Chase Conklin, president of the Ohio University College Republicans, was already planning events for the election in March when the coronavirus first emerged in Ohio. 

“How is the virus going to affect our events?” Conklin said. “How is this going to affect recruitment? For a while we didn’t have an answer.”  

Conklin reached out to alumni, community members, friends and other members of OUCR for ideas for how the group could reorganize for the Nov. 3 elections. The College Republicans have been holding meetings on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, including the meeting in which the 2020-2021 executive board was sworn in. 

Even so, the fact that OUCR membership is separated is a big hurdle, OUCR Political Director Brad Kennedy said. Because not everyone is in Athens, it makes meetings harder to assemble and for everyone to be there, Kennedy said. 

OUCR’s plans for informing voters about candidates have not changed much due to the pandemic. Door knocking can still be done while maintaining social distancing guidelines, Conklin said. They are still calling registered Republicans in Athens to see if they are voting in person or sending in an absentee ballot. On National Voter Registration Day, OUCR will have a booth uptown to help residents register to vote. 

The OU College Democrats are working in preparation for the election by promoting voter registration and encouraging members to volunteer with campaigns and county parties, OUCD President Elanor Skees said. 

“We have been working very closely with the Athens County Democratic Party and their fantastic volunteers to get work done county-wide,” Skees said.

Similar to OUCR, OUCD has made phone and text-banking a centerpiece of their plan to get the word out to vote. “We have also been getting students involved with their county parties at home to get Democrats elected down the ballot across the state and country,” Skees said.

Since OUCD is spread throughout the state due to COVID-19, Skees and members have made connections with their local officials in their hometowns. “We’re encouraging involvement statewide, not just in Athens,” Skees said. 

Though much can go on remotely, OUCR and OUCD have not been able to plan their usual parades in support of their representatives. “Events that we depend on doing are up in the air. Parades almost every weekend, haven’t done any due to COVID-19,” Vice President Sam Wiesneth, a senior studying journalism and political science. said. 

Conklin encourages people who have not registered to vote to register before the Ohio deadline on Oct. 5.


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