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    Student Asks Campus Experts About Voting and Election Anxiety

    November 2, 2020
    By: Rebeca Chieffallo '21
    I approached some experts on our campus to talk about the election process and how daunting it can all be.

    For many young adults, this presidential election is the first time they’ll be voting. This is true not just on this campus, but across the nation as a whole. This fact also applies to me. Though I previously voted in primary elections, I have not voted in a presidential election.

    Voting in a presidential election for the first time is a pretty daunting experience. It carries a lot of weight, and the results can impact this country and society for years to follow, long after the presidential term has ended. Many first-time voters may be experiencing uncertainty, especially considering the nature and divisiveness of the current political climate. To deal with these feelings of uncertainty and pressure and to have more confidence, I decided to try to educate myself before going to the polls. I learned that it’s not a matter of party affiliation, more so learning about the issues that are most important to you and have the biggest impact on your life. I felt that I needed to learn more about politics. Doing so helped me make better-informed decisions — during any election — as a voter.

    I approached some experts on our campus to talk about the election process and how daunting it can all be.

    “[The benefits can be] a sense of self-esteem, a sense of making a difference or the pride of being a responsible citizen."- Jean Harris, Ph.D., Political Science Professor

    harris.jpgJean Harris, Ph.D., a professor of political science at Scranton (pictured at left), offered insight into the importance of voting and how it creates a better society when everyone participates. She told me how voting is the most common form of political participation and noted that those who vote decide to do so because there are benefits that come along with voting.

    “[The benefits can be] a sense of self-esteem, a sense of making a difference or the pride of being a responsible citizen,” Dr. Harris said.

    In response to the idea that a singular vote does not hold much weight in an election, Dr. Harris encouraged me (and others!) to still go out and cast their ballot, mostly because the electorate listens to the people.

    “Elections have been won, and lost, by as few as one vote,” Dr. Harris said. “Your vote [could be] combined with those of others who voted [the same way] you did, [and then] elected officials have to pay attention.”

    She also encouraged participation in the political process by staying informed, writing to elected officials and attending public meetings. She said that elected officials pay attention to these forms of participation.

    “Write letters to your elected officials [and] the editors of your local paper,” Dr. Harris said, “Elected officials read [these letters] to see what the folks back home are thinking.”

    “Try to find common ground rather than focusing on differences."- Ellen Morgan, Professional Counselor in the Center, and Sara Nardone, Staff Psychologist

    So, what happens if the results aren’t what you had hoped for? Surely there will be some negative emotions that come with such an outcome, right? That’s what I was asking myself. Learning how to cope and handle these emotions, I thought, was important to the overall betterment of society.

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    Two University of Scranton Counseling Center counselors recently discussed such emotions with their colleagues and came up with some healthy ways to handle the disapproval and disappointment that could come with unfavorable election outcomes. The two are Ellen Morgan, a professional counselor in the Center, and Sara Nardone, a staff psychologist (left to right in photo).

    They discussed the feelings of anger, disappointment and sadness that can come along with unmet expectations. They also said that these emotions can negatively affect people’s relationships, especially when related to politics.

    “These emotions could impact their relationships with others, including those in their support network, especially if both parties hold differing views about the election outcome,” Morgan and Nardone said, “In a time when it is already difficult to maintain meaningful connections, losing that connection could be extremely detrimental for people’s’ overall well-being.”

    Morgan and Nardone said that it is important to learn how to put political differences aside in order to maintain connections. Morgan said that spending time with others is meaningful.

    “Try to find common ground rather than focusing on differences,” they suggested.

    Lastly, the two spoke about the importance of radical acceptance, which means understanding when situations are out of your control. Morgan and Nardone said it is important to not waste energy on the unfavorable outcome.

    “Giving the unfavorable outcome your energy and focus is not going to change it and will instead only drain your mental and emotional resources that could be used elsewhere,” Morgan and Nardone said.

    To use your energy for beneficial activities, the two suggest taking part in local and political activities that are meaningful and rewarding to you.

    “[Step] away from social media [and] news for a bit, [do] service in your local community… or [engage] more actively on a local or party level for the next election,” they told me.

    Though there is much uncertainty surrounding the election and politics right now, remember that it is still important to fulfill the civic duty of making your voice and needs heard by voting in this election.

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