#FOCUSDEMOCRACY: Montclair State University Faculty Have Mixed Opinions on the 2020 Election

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Published November 3, 2020
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The Montclarion
David Graham works on his computers in his office. Photo courtesy of Tiffannie Coy

Montclair State University is located in one of the most Democrat-leaning states in the country. With the exception of President George Bush’s election in 2000 and 2004, New Jersey has been a Democratic state since the 1976 election of Jimmy Carter.

It is no mystery why some administration at Montclair State have mixed opinions regarding the current election between former Vice President Joe Biden and the incumbent President Donald Trump.

Helene Sostarish-Barsamian, the director of development for the College of the Arts, recalls her first United States election in 1976.

“It was the 1976 Jimmy Carter election. [That election and our current one] do not compare. I don’t remember seeing such a divided country during election time. I don’t remember seeing such anger fueling the electorates,” Sostarish-Barsamian said. “You’re not voting for something anymore, you’re voting against something. Back then, you voted because you believed in something.”

Sostarish-Barsamian understands that this election will be a defining turning point for the country. She hopes that first-time voters, who did not get the chance to vote last election, know that their vote will always matter. She believes that their voices alone can change the tides of this election.

“I hope first-time voters are more idealistic than some of us who are jaded. I hope they know their vote will make a difference, not only in this election, but going forward,” Sostarish-Barsamian said. “If you want to see something come about, you have to vote to see the change.”

Helene Sostarish-Barsamian in a zoom meeting. Photo by Tiffannie Coy.

Helene Sostarish-Barsamian participates in a Zoom meeting from her office on campus.
Photo courtesy Tiffannie Coy

David Graham, the assistant vice president for Major Gifts and Development Leadership at Montclair State, believes that this election may also be a close electoral vote, just like in 2016, but not for the same reasons.

“Before 2012, I lived in New Hampshire for more than 20 years. I was heavily involved in presidential primaries. It’s just like Iowa, where they get extreme opportunities to meet these candidates,” Graham said. “Because of that experience, I became way more involved in politics. Had I lived in another state, where they never visit during election time, I just wouldn’t have known who the vice president or president was at the time.”

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, both candidates have had limited access to traveling to certain states, due to the fluctuating number of positive infection cases across the country. This has made it even harder for states that normally do not receive visits before the election.

In response to the pandemic, New Jersey has set up more than 320 ballot boxes across the state to allow for safe voting, which follows social distancing guidelines.

“I think we’re in this unprecedented time where more people feel comfortable going to a polling location because of the confidence you get with pressing a button,” Graham said. “On the other hand, states like Colorado have done mail-in ballots for years. With proper rules in place, I think [the results] can still be accurate.”

Although Colorado has conducted mail-in voting since 2013, a majority of the country has fears regarding the security of using ballot boxes.

An administrator in the political science department at Montclair State, who wished to remain anonymous, shared a different viewpoint regarding the use of ballot boxes.

“I really wish that the ballot boxes had better protection. I think they should have been inside of public buildings, instead of outside, because it makes a lot of people feel unsafe,” the administrator said. “We don’t even know who really picks up the ballots. Our vote could be going anywhere.”

Gov. Phil Murphy has reassured registered voters on nj.gov that the ballot boxes are “open 24 hours a day, monitored by security cameras and collected daily by county election officials.”

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