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Students should show up at polls on Election Day, professors say

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Some 115 million American citizens are expected to choose their next leader tonight, with more than 46 million voters having already cast their ballots in early voting states.

The 2016 presidential election will have an impact beyond just the United States. Several of President Barack Obama’s current initiatives were accomplished using executive actions, while many others were spearheaded by him.

People should vote in this election to make sure they are represented by the nation’s elected leaders, said Louis Masur, a distinguished professor in the Department of American Studies and the Department of History.

“I think everyone should vote,” he said. “Even if you don’t vote for one of the candidates I don’t believe necessarily that you’re throwing away your vote. I think you need to vote more to exercise your franchise, because ultimately voting means you want someone to be elected who’s going to represent your interests.”

Over the last four years, the United States entered a “historic climate agreement” with 195 other countries, reopened diplomatic relations with Cuba and negotiated a deal with Iran on nuclear arms, all led by Obama.

Through the next four, the President will likely select at least one Supreme Court justice, and possibly as many as five.

The Supreme Court is only one of several issues that are at play during this election, but it is an increasingly prevalent one. Recently, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said they would prevent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from nominating anyone to the highest court in the land if she won.

This is a “bizarre statement” for Republican senators to make, said Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science Richard Lau.

“Are we just going to go without any (new justices)?” he said. “I mean if the Republicans do this, do they think the Democrats won’t do it when (the Republicans have a) president? That’s just a crazy statement to me.”

Roughly 53 candidates are also running for 12 seats in the House of Representatives, and New Jersey will also have two different ballot questions - one could authorize casinos in the northern part of the state while the other could dedicate all gas and diesel tax revenues to the Transportation Trust Fund.

Elections allow voters to pick someone to voice their concerns, said Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Ben Sifuentes-Jáuregui to The Daily Targum last month.

“You’re surrendering your authority to let somebody else speak for you … whether on a very local level or on a world stage,” he said. “There’s an engagement, that’s what civic responsibility is. You’re continuously challenging the persons in authority and they’re responding to the needs you have as a community.”

Students should know that their candidate will be speaking for them and be comfortable with that, he said. They should show up to vote regardless of how closely their candidates’ views align with their own, because that is how they can force a change.

In May, Obama told The Daily Targum that America should do as much as possible to encourage voter turnout by making it easier to vote early, by mail or online.

“Everything we can do to make sure that we’re increasing participation is something that we should promote and encourage,” he said. “Our democracy is not going to function well when only half or a third of eligible voters are participating.”

Early voter turnout has so far surpassed 2012 numbers in many states, according to PBS Newshour.

Though lines have been long during early voting, polling centers stayed open to allow everyone in line to vote. On Tuesday, these polls are legally required to remain open until lines are cleared in most states.

People should take advantage of that ability.

“Voting is the fundamental right, it’s at the center of what it means to be an American,” Masur said. “I think to not vote is to essentially say that this American Democratic system isn’t responsive enough for their needs … If you don’t vote you’re saying ‘I don’t want to play.’”

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.

Nikhilesh De is the news editor of The Daily Targum. He is a School of Engineering senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.

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