Election Day forum to provide students with chance to voice their opinions

In Roman times, each major city of the empire had in its center a large public space known as a forum. The forum held great social and economic importance to the city and was also its political center. Candidates for office would shout their speeches and ideas to whomever listened, political parties and groups would hold events and debates and finally, when all the campaigning was over, Roman citizens would cast their votes in the forum.

In short, the greatest expressions of public opinion would all happen in the great forums of the Roman Empire.

In this same spirit of public political expression, the Office of Multicultural and International Student Services (MISS) will host “Election Day: Minorities Matter” today from 12 – 2 p.m. in Sam Houston State’s own “forum,” the LSC Mall.

This event is designed to give students the opportunity to express their opinions about matters pertinent to today’s election. Students will be able to write their opinions on sheets of paper and then post them on a bulletin board visible to anyone passing by.

“It’s very low-key, but a good way for people to get their voices out about the candidates,” said Jessica Kong, MISS student worker in charge of the program.

The large posting board is designed to be a visible representation of the political discourse in the university community on a wide range of issues, ranging from reasons why an individual voted to more specific issues of the campaign, according to MISS Program Coordinator Ashley McDonough.

“We thought this would be perfect given that [today] is Election Day,” she said.

The name of the event is meant to be a reflection on the historic precedent that the 2008 election will set, given that both the Democratic and Republican parties have a minority on their ticket. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, is the first African-American to head a major party ticket while Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, could become the first woman to be elected Vice-President.

The event itself is open to all students who yearn to express their thoughts about the election.

“It’s open to everyone,” McDonough said. “Anyone can voice their opinion.”

Although the event is intended to be a hub of discourse about politics, organizers say that one of their goals is also to encourage students to vote in this historic election.

The student demographic has been traditionally underrepresented in American politics. Statistics from the 2004 Presidential Election estimated that only 51.5 percent of U.S. citizens ages 18-24 were registered to vote and of those registered, only 41.9 percent actually voted, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Event organizers believe that increased participation in discourse will increase voting turnout.

“If you’re interested in the opinions of the candidates, make sure you go to vote [today],” Kong said.

Polls close in Texas at 8 p.m. this evening, although anyone still standing in line will be able to vote. To find out where your polling place is located, visit http://www.votexas.org/wwh_wheretovote.html or call the Texas Secretary of State’s office (toll free) at 1-800-252-8683 or (direct) at 512-463-5650.

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