On-campus student vote helps to drive major NWI turnout

This year’s record voter turnout was fueled, in part, by PNW students who cast their ballots at the university’s own polling place, precinct H-5 13 in Anderson Hall in Hammond.

Election day was busy for Loraine Deal and Evonne Rimkus, two Hammond city clerks who worked at the Anderson polling location.

“We had every challenge there is, from address changes, wrong polling place, voting on the wrong machine, etc.,” said Deal. “Some were upset with the gloves and masks, but the majority of the people go with the flow.”

Unofficial voter turnout in Lake County, where the Hammond campus is located, was 60% of registered voters in the county, an increase of about 4% from the 2016 general election. LaPorte County, where the Westville campus is located, had a turnout of nearly 63%.

One reason for the turnout was the attraction of voting for president, according to Michelle Fajman, director of the Lake County Election and Voter Registration Board.

“It seems like the bigger surge for the youth to vote is often presidential elections,” she said. “I’ve been here 31 years now. In presidential elections, there’s a surge across the board for a lot of different individuals. And yes, there have been certain elections like 2008, which was great, where there was a huge youth group that came out and registered.”

Students voting at Anderson said they felt a sense of obligation to vote.

As representatives of the young generation of voters, students at PNW expressed their sentiments on the 2020 election. One student realized how the high numbers at the polls made it all the more important for her to cast her vote.

“I believe the 2020 election is important for numerous reasons,” said Maya Dziepak, a junior. “Voter turnout is very high on both sides, meaning my vote is needed for my chosen party.”

Miguel Hernandez, a junior studying construction engineering management technology, recognized his vote as a chance for a new opportunity.

“The 2020 election is extremely important,” he said. “We are more divided than ever. Where we stand as a country at the moment was definitely encouraging enough to get me out to vote. Also, this is the first election where I can legally express that right.”

Madison Dinga, a junior studying broadcasting, decided to vote because of the issues.

 “We are dealing with issues of race, gender, sexuality and coronavirus within this election,” she said. “I hope the right decision will be made that benefits everyone and moves us toward all being equal.”

As ballots were being counted, some students restlessly awaited the outcome.

“I’m more afraid of what will happen if the candidate I voted for isn’t elected,” said Dziepak. 

“These past four years did affect me, but I know they were harder and more impactful for those less privileged. My vote is important for those people, hopefully preventing any more harm. I’ll be more than relieved if my candidate is elected.”