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Rutgers students hit the polls after lengthy campaign

June 2016 | Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is one of several candidates running for the highest office in America. Though initially challenged by Senator Bernie Sanders (I.-Vt.), she has earned the vote of several progressives at Rutgers. – Photo by Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez | The Daily Targum

An unpredictable and long national campaign has culminated, and now, America will either elect the first woman president in its history in Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or send a businessman in Republican nominee Donald Trump to the White House. 

The contentious campaign cycle has not only dominated the national conversation, but has been a prominent theme in campus life.

In May, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held a rally in the Rutgers Athletic Center to energize his ardent supporters before conceding the Democratic nomination to Clinton. A week later, President Barack Obama delivered a rebuke of Trump’s proposals in a speech to the graduating Class of 2016 at High Point Solutions Stadium.

Rutgers for Hillary has been campaigning since its inception in 2014, and Rutgers for Trump emerged this fall semester. In September, the Rutgers Republicans joined other Republican college groups across the nation and declined to endorse Trump.

The discourse of this year’s presidential campaign has also found its way into the University. Last week, a rally supporting undocumented students and denouncing anti-immigrant graffiti found on campus was matched by a counter protest by members of Rutgers for Trump – who chanted the Republican candidate’s slogan of “build the wall.”

Rutgers’ administration, including University President Robert L. Barchi, has urged students to exercise their franchise.

“As this momentous presidential campaign reaches its conclusion, it is time to make your voice heard,” said Barbara Lee, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, in a message to students. “Your participation is critical.”

Students who registered with their home address can either go home to vote or could have contacted their county clerk’s office before Election Day to request a mail-in ballot. Those who registered using the address of their Rutgers residence hall will be able to vote in designated locations in the area.

The polling locations in New Brunswick are the Lincoln Elementary School, the Rutgers Labor Education Center, the Lord Sterling Community School and the First Reform Church. In North Brunswick, the Parsons School will serve as a polling center, while students in Piscataway will be able to vote in the Busch and Livingston Campus Centers.

Polling locations will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Clinton is leading Trump by 3.2 percentage points in a national polling average by The New York Times. This interactive map is updated regularly as new data is collected.

Rutgers for Hillary and Rutgers for Trump have tried to court voters on campus. Both groups strongly believe their candidate’s vision for America will benefit Rutgers students and young people across the nation.

Dylan Marek, a member of Rutgers for Trump, said a Trump presidency will “tear down the politically correct culture” that has been prevalent on campus and in American society.

“A lot of university professors have an extremely liberal bias, and naturally give more of a forum to those who have liberal opinions,” the School of Arts and Sciences first-year student said.

Marek is also attracted by Trump’s message of “putting Americans first.” He said this includes strengthening the military, securing the border, having a conversation about the “effects of Islamic immigration” and ultimately, allowing Americans to “pick and choose who (they) want to live around (them).”

He said it is not Trump’s fault that former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke and The Crusader, a Klan newspaper, have endorsed his candidacy. Marek noted that the outspoken businessman has rescinded these endorsements, and pointed out that the Communist Party has endorsed Democratic presidential nominees in past elections.

In the end, Marek said, Trump’s message will resonate with voters. 

“I do believe (Trump) will win the election, and it could very well end up being a landslide victory," he said.

This is something that Jeremy Atie, president of Rutgers for Hillary, believes to be far-fetched. 

The School of Arts and Sciences senior labeled Clinton’s lead in the polls as “almost insurmountable,” and predicted that voters will come out to defend the progress he believes has been made on issues like LGBT rights and health care.

"We’ve embraced diversity, we have included more people in decision-making and we have included more people in society. The country has opened up so much and it’s in the process of opening up for more people over time," he said.

A vote for Trump, Atie said, is one that stagnates and reverses this progress.

Atie also considers a vote for Green Party nominee Jill Stein a vote that helps propel Trump to the presidency. He would advise progressive voters who are hesitant about Clinton to think about the issues that unite them, and to partake in a discussion to usher the progress they seek.

Benjamin Silva, co-president of RU Progressive, formerly Rutgers for Bernie, said he is voting for the former first lady. Like Atie, the School of Arts and Sciences sophomore said he recognizes that Clinton and Trump are the only viable candidates in the race.

Although Stein’s ideas closely align with his, Silva characterized her chances as dim and pointed out her lack of governing experience. Stein has held one elected office in the town of Lexington, Mass., and has a 4 percent backing among prospective voters, according to a national poll by Bloomberg.

Although he has “reservations” about Clinton, Silva said Trump would be “an absolute disaster for America.”

Silva said he is walking into the voting booth with two questions in mind – who is the candidate who knows how to govern and who is the one he agrees with the most.

Out of the four candidates in the presidential race, “Hillary Clinton is the only candidate in both these categories,” he said.

This article is part of The Daily Targum's 2016 election coverage. For a full list of articles, click here

The Eagleton Institute of Politics has released a full list of candidates running in New Jersey municipalities. Click here for more.

Camilo Montoya-Galvez is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in Spanish and journalism and media studies. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @camiloooom.

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