On Tuesday night, November 4, students celebrated Election Day in 27 Persson Hall. The event was planned by Assistant Professor of Political Science Daniel Epstein and was supported by a new class he taught this semester, POSC 323: American Elections & Party Power.
“I thought it would be a fun idea to have a party like this for my students in POSC 323 and also invite the College Democrats & Republicans, students from other Political Science classes, and really just anyone who wanted to come. So much [of] our country’s future depends on the dramatic outcome of elections, and I think it’s exciting to watch in a big group so people can share their knowledge and have a community experience of this important moment in our democracy,” Epstein said.
Epstein expressed his fear that Colgate students are not really involved in politics and the elections. He organized this event as a way of trying to get students to be more involved or interested in politics.
“I often get worried on Colgate campus that the majority of people pay lip-service to democracy, but don’t back up the talk with action: investing time and energy in participating in our system of government (I wonder, for example, how many eligible voters participated in these elections). I hoped holding this event would encourage people to at least spend more time thinking about politics, and maybe invest time and energy in other ways, too, in the future,” Epstein said.
Munching on cookies and pizza, attendants were informed of election developments by fellow students and Epstein as they watched pundits and the final ballot-counts from each state calculated on CNN. Each member of POSC 323 was assigned specific states to report on and provide background on where a specific state fit into the battle for control of the House of Representatives and, more importantly, the Senate.
Junior Charlie Fager had become an expert on the races for the senatorial seat in Arkansas and Kansas.
“We see candidates, Democrat or Republican, distancing themselves from the President because he’s so unpopular,” Fager said, referring specifically to the race in Kansas and why Republican Pat Roberts and Independent Greg Orman were the most important candidates. He predicted that the Independent candidate would win the seat that Pat Roberts ended up winning.
As students from his class educated the audience, Epstein enhanced commentary and used the whiteboard behind them to draw out statistics. He even related a personal anecdote when the discussion changed to the Senatorial race in Arkansas and its eventual winner, Tom Cotton.
“I went to school with Tom Cotton. He was the smarmiest guy in our class,” Epstein said.
Another POSC 323 student, junior Toni Stickler, explained why the senatorial race in Georgia may not already be decided due to recent demographic shifts.
Epstein explained some of the more confusing details of the elections, like why CNN was already calling victories in certain states where not every vote had been counted.
“It is due to exit polls. Organizations like CNN will take surveys of people coming out of polling places and if the margin of error is small enough and the gap between candidates wide enough, they will call it,” Epstein said.
Afterwards, Epstein mentioned the potential dangers of exit-polling, reminding everyone of the 2000 Presidential Elections when major news organizations had reported an early victory for Al Gore in Florida when, in reality, former President George W. Bush was beginning to take an early lead.
“I thought that the event was very informative; it was great to hear about the details of the electoral races from students. Although they ran out of pizza before I arrived, the event was fun and thought-provoking. Being with interested, intelligent and informed students was the best way to spend Elections Results Night,” junior Sam Sloane said. Epstein was also satisfied with how the event had proceeded.
“In general, I was really pleased with the turnout at the event – especially from College Democrats and College Republicans. I was disappointed that more faculty didn’t show up, though I know a lot of them have family obligations that make late-night events quite inconvenient. I plan to hold events like this for future election nights (perhaps even during the presidential primaries in the spring semester of 2016, which is the next time I plan to offer POSC 323) and try to involve other faculty more in the planning, so they can make it, too,” Epstein said.