UCO stages forums in advance of Nov. 8 elections 

click to enlarge University of Central Oklahoma election forums cover domestic policy, the state budget crisis and foreign policy. | Photo University of Central Oklahoma / provided
  • University of Central Oklahoma election forums cover domestic policy, the state budget crisis and foreign policy. | Photo University of Central Oklahoma / provided

Every presidential election year, the University of Central Oklahoma’s political science department stages a four-part election forum to inform both the student body and the general electorate in central Oklahoma.

The reasoning is simple: An informed citizenry provides for a healthy democracy. But young people also generally fail to show up to vote.

“It’s under 20 percent for the midterm and in the neighborhood of 35 percent in the presidential elections,” said Louis Furmanski, UCO Department of Political Science chairman. “The 18- to 25-year-old group turns out at the lowest percentage level of any age group.”

To combat that inactivity, the department teamed with Rose State College, the American Democracy Project and Phi Sigma Alpha student honor society to host these forums, which are split into state and national discussions. The next forum is 7-9 p.m. Sept. 28 in Pegasus Theater in the Liberal Arts Building at UCO, 100 N. University Drive, in Edmond. Admission is free and open to the public.

That forum features four separate speakers followed by a discussion period and focuses on national domestic policy, including gun control, minority issues, the U.S. Supreme Court and current divisions in the Republican Party.

“That will be a discussion about the rift in the GOP due to Trump’s candidacy,” Furmanski said, referring to the alt-right influence on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which Furmanski said has alienated many neo-conservatives of the George W. Bush era as well as many veterans of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

The forums continue through October, including one 7 p.m. Oct. 13 on Oklahoma’s budget crisis and a final forum 7 p.m. Oct. 26 on U.S. foreign policy.

Furmanski said that while the first part of the forums is structured, with each of the four speakers given 10 minutes on the dais, the rest of the evening is freeform to allow for the open exchange of ideas. He said this worked particularly well during the first forum, Oklahoma’s Election Landscape, was Sept. 7.

“Once people got into the Q&A, the questions ranged widely,” Furmanski said. “And there’s no set format that we’ll stick to, hell or high water.”

The forums also provide opportunities for real action on the part of attendees.

“We wanted to put these on this fall in order to generate interest in our students to vote and also to hand out registration material for those who still need to register to vote,” Furmanski said.

While he said that many younger Oklahoma voters were energized by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president, Furmanski said he did not expect the campaign to have a longstanding residual impact on youth-oriented political activity. However, ballot initiatives such as State Question 792, which would reform Oklahoma laws regarding beer and wine sales, could have a noticeable impact on younger voters, while SQ 777, the so-called Right to Farm Act, could draw students from rural backgrounds or environmental activists to the polling places on Nov. 8.

Call UCO at 405-974-5353 for information.

Print Headline: Body politic, University of Central Oklahoma stages forums to inform both students and the public prior to the Nov. 8 election.

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