Voting blocs, suppression topic of debate at Wednesday's Speak Up, Speak Out

Most Americans fall into certain voting blocs that politicians and campaigns play to, and many do not even know it.

That was the focus of a Speak Up, Speak Out event Wednesday night, facilitated by associate history professor Kathy Donohue, that focused on voting blocs and discussed which group of voters will hold the most power in this presidential election.

Voting blocs are people who are grouped by candidates, campaigns and political scientists based on their characteristics and economic statuses. The candidates then campaign to each voting bloc and attempt to persuade them to vote in their favor.

The event's panel featured Saginaw sophomore and political science major Marie Reimers, history graduate student Jake Szetela, Comstock Park sophomore and political science major Taylor Gehrcke and political science department chairman Orlando Perez.

"(There is) an intense amount of pressure put on voters to abandon principal in favor of basically being a team player," Szetela said.

The focus on voting blocs is so crucial to campaigns that certain growing demographics and groups, such as Latino or gay voters, can make or break the election for either candidate.

“(Republican presidential nominee) Mitt Romney needs 35 to 40 percent of Latino voters to be competitive in key battleground states. There are 23 million Latinos in America that will be eligible to vote this year. You can't be something with nothing,” Perez said.

Many on the panel and in the audience said candidates set their sights on low-information voters or those not properly educated on the issues or will instead focus on more widely known issues.

"National campaigns are about national issues. (Candidates) focus on the big picture, because that's what the undecideds are thinking about," Wayne senior David Kautz said.

The panel also focused on controversial voter identification laws being passed in some states around the country that are designed to crack down on fraud but critics fear may infringe on voting rights.

In order to vote in Michigan, voters must show some sort of personal identification before filling out a ballot. This ID can be a driver's license, a college ID or a passport among other forms of ID.

Reimers urged students to know their rights as a voter.

"It is illegal in the state of Michigan to be denied a ballot," Reimers said. "Every poll in Michigan has to have a copy of this law on the wall."

Donohue said she is impressed with the student body's knowledge of political topics.

"What I find so impressive at these Speak Up, Speak Out panels is the level of political knowledge and saviness students have," she said.

Reimers said students are making better efforts to expand and share their political knowledge.

“The students responded really positively to the answers. I was excited. Most people pass off students as apathetic or as a stereotype of ‘I don‘t care.’ I am glad that students were able to break that boundary tonight,” she said.


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