Gephardt News

Every Action Counts: Civic Engagement in the Time of COVID

Although this semester has been anything but normal, the Gephardt Institute has been working hard to sustain and adapt the Engage Democracy Initiative despite the added layers of uncertainty. By identifying new and creative ways to educate the WashU community about the processes and civic skills needed to participate in a thriving democracy, both professional and student staff at the Gephardt Institute continue to collaborate virtually to engage the campus community and increase political participation. Read below for updates regarding recent Engage Democracy initiatives.

Debate Watch Parties: The Gephardt Institute has held watch parties for each presidential and vice presidential debate. The watch parties consist of three main components—pre- and post-debate commentary from Washington University faculty and students, a chat feed for participants during the debate, and real time streaming of the debate. These elements allow students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members to watch the debate while connecting with peers and listening to analysis from WashU experts. In addition, the Gephardt Institute offers real-time voting support throughout the debate for any attendees who have questions about their personal voting plans. Those interested in attending a watch party can RSVP for the final debate watch party on October 22 here.

#MyFirstElection Campaign: The #MyFirstElection campaign is a social media campaign which aims to tell stories about individuals’ first experiences with an election. The first installment of the campaign will be released October 28-30. This installment will feature members of the WashU community talking about their first experience voting or engaging in an election. Through these testimonies, the Gephardt Institute hopes to address any uncertainties that first-time voters may be feeling toward the upcoming election and voting for the first time. The second installment, which will be released November 4-6, will feature interviews with individuals who voted for the first time in the general election. They will discuss their experiences and their takeaways after voting for the first time. You can follow the #MyFirstElection campaign on the Gephardt Institute Instagram and Facebook.

Census Effort: The Gephardt Institute began its work early in the spring semester to educate students about the importance of participating in the census. When the COVID-19 pandemic and transition to alternate operations created confusion about where students should be counted, and the census deadline shifted a number of times, the WashU Counts Committee extended its communication with off-campus renters from Spring 2020 about the importance of being counted. While it is not possible to track which students completed Census 2020, almost 670 off-campus renters self-reported completion and All students who lived in residential housing during spring 2020 were counted in the group enumeration process.

Two Pandemics, One Election: Over the past few weeks, the Gephardt Institute has hosted a new series, Two Pandemics, One Election, in partnership with the Clark-Fox Policy Institute and the new Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity . As the 2020 general election approaches, two recent events have brought systemic racism glaringly into the national spotlight.  With the U.S. simultaneously confronting racial inequities revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic and a new racial moment catalyzed by legal and extra-legal racial violence, the roundtables covered a range of issues including identity, education, health, and justice.  Timed to occur the Monday before each of the October debates, the Two Pandemics, One Election series featured roundtable conversations to illuminate these and related important issues that were likely to emerge in the debates and may be significant as voters determine how to exercise their franchise. View the first two panels here: Race, Identity and the Future of Democracy & Re-Defining Equity

To learn more about or get involved with Engage Democracy, click here.

Article by Lindsay Gassman, Theresa Kouo, and Colleen Smyth