Brooklyn College Faculty Discuss Election 2020 And Why Everyone Should Get Out To Vote

Anna O. Law

Herbert Kurz Chair in Constitutional Rights
Department of Political Science

Recount the first time you voted.

I am a half-century old. I do not remember my first time voting at all, especially not when so much of my brain space is being taken up this election because the chaos with COVID-19.

What are you reading and watching in front of the election?

I read The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post front page every morning by 7:30 and then “doomscroll” Twitter the rest of the day for breaking news. I check the Five Thirty Eight ( and Real Clear Politics ( polls in the battleground states and especially their poll averages each day.

What would you tell someone to encourage them to vote?

This is the most consequential election in a generation, much more than just who should be president and vice president is on the ballot. Climate change, racial justice, immigration, abortion, LGBTQ rights, and healthcare are all on the ballot. This election year looks also to be headed toward record-breaking turnout—don’t be left out.

David C. Bloomfield

Professor of Education Leadership, Law, and Policy
Department of School Psychology, Counseling and Leadership

Recount the first time you voted.

My first presidential vote was in 1972 for George McGovern. I had been aware of the ’68 vote and honestly thought there was a valid reason to not vote for Hubert Humphrey, running against Richard Nixon, because Humphrey was Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President, supporting the Vietnam War. That was a big mistake. It’s always “the lesser of two evils” in some respect but casting a ballot is always preferable to sitting it out.

What are you reading and watching in front of the election?

I read The New York Times daily print edition, the NY Daily News, and Wall Street Journal, along with multiple news sites so I feel informed but not overwhelmed by punditry. My consumption of political opinion is mostly confined to watching political analysis on PBS NewsHour and obsessively following and The Cook Political Report ( Otherwise I’m trying to tune out from other TV and web traffic though I’m on Twitter a lot. I left Facebook years ago and that was a great move for my mental health and time management though I sometimes miss keeping up with long lost “friends.”

What would you tell someone to encourage them to vote?

People have died to protect the vote. We honor them by casting an informed ballot and being otherwise involved in the electoral process, the sacred right of every American to have a voice in our democracy. Voting is not the only way to make that voice heard. We can take part in demonstrations and protests, write letters and sign petitions, and join local political organizations. But voting public officials in or out of office — the ability to hold them accountable — is essential to making government work.

Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome

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Professor of Political Science, African and Women’s Studies
Leonard & Claire Tow Professor

Recount the first time you voted.

I voted in for the first time in Nigeria’s 1979 elections, which were epochal, because they signified an end to years of military dictatorship in the country (from 1966-79). It was also exciting because I had just graduated from the University of Ibadan with an undergraduate degree in Political Science, and I had written my undergraduate thesis on the transition from military rule to a democratic system, and interviewed some candidates that ran for the elections, as subjects for my research. The most important one was the man who became the Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande.

What we you reading and watching in front of the election?

I read and view the news and analysis in The New York Times, The Guardian (UK), Time, Newsweek, AlJazeera, The Washington Post, as well as BBC, Council on Foreign Relations, The Nation, MSNBC, CBS, PBS, WNYC, Democracy Now, and articles in scholarly journals. I also have participated in Zoom webinars on the election and its implications—principally by The Council on Foreign Relations, and The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

What would you tell someone to encourage them to vote?

Voting is one of the most important ways in which the electorate influences the politics of a country. Elections are a democratic institution and participating in them indicates that one believes in democracy and is interested in contributing to strengthening it. It is also a means of ensuring peaceful transitions from one administration to another. As a Black woman in the US, I am also mindful of the responsibility on me to honor through voting, the sacrifices of so many activists in the Black Freedom Movement who struggled, were brutalized, and even sometimes killed in order to secure the right to vote. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, because it extended the full rights of citizenship to an excluded and marginalized community in a way that reflects true democracy.

Qing Hu

Dean of Koppelman School of Business

Recount the first time you voted.

As an immigrant to this county, I became eligible to vote in early 1992, and my first vote was cast in the 1992 presidential election. It was a very exciting time because everything was a new experience for me. I was glued to television to watch the U.S. presidential campaign events, the presidential debates among George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot, and was very impressed with how eloquently the politicians articulated their views and positions on everything and the extreme enthusiasm, excitement, and pageantry at the DNC and RNC nomination conferences.

What are you reading and watching in front of the election?

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I used to get most of my information about political candidates and their views, positions, and policies based on what I saw on television. Not long ago, evening news and programming on ABC, CBS, NBC, and the 24-hour news channel CNN were highly respected and trusted. Things have changed dramatically in the last few years. The digital technology revolution not just brought us smart phones, social media, fake news, and alternative reality, it also created deep polarization and extreme political divide in our society as well as news and media organizations. During this election cycle, I primarily watch evening news programs on the broadcast networks with critical eyes on everything that is shown.

What would you tell someone to encourage them to vote?

In a democratic society like ours, voting is not just a basic civil right of every citizen, it is often the only way for a citizen to influence national and local policies that have profound impact on everyday life, such as taxes, equality, healthcare, retirement, civil services, public safety, and national security. In today’s extremely divided society, each single vote carries even more weight than ever before, because very often political candidates won or lose depending on very narrow margins, a few thousands votes in a state with millions of people could determine who is the next President of the United States and the next senator of the state, with almost opposite views, positions, and policies on everything. So, go out to vote, and have your voice heard!

Rosamond S. King

Associate Professor, Department of English
Director of the Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities

Recount the first time you voted.

The first time my father voted is a very American story. He grew up in colonies in “British West Africa,” where he could not vote because they were governed by the British. Inspired by a Peace Corps volunteer, he came the United States for his college education and medical training — and for the Civil Rights Movement. He got involved in organizing to end voter suppression in the South — even though he, as an immigrant, was ineligible to vote. One day he received an anonymous phone call; the man at the other end of the line said that if he was arrested for any reason, including a misdemeanor, he would be deported. So he had a difficult decision to make: keep working to improve the country he was visiting, or make sure he finished his education so he could serve his own country.

He left formal organizing, and for the rest of his life has been committed to “change from the inside,” working in less visible ways to make the country he lives in better. My father became the first Gambian heart surgeon, and fate decided that he would stay in the United States and raise his family. He got a green card and applied for citizenship, and every year he called to check in on the process. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” was always the response. Finally, after more than 40 years in the USA, he was made a citizen.

The first time my father was eligible to vote for a head of state was a long time coming, but it was worth it: He waited in line to vote for Barak Obama, the first Black American President and the child of an African immigrant.

What are you reading and watching in front of the election?

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I’m reading poems by Brooklyn College alumni Natalie Diaz (Postcolonial Love Poem)and Ocean Vuong (Night Sky with Exit Wounds). Their work addresses the brutal realities of U.S. history, as well as the ongoing ways we love each other while struggling to make this country live up to its ideals. Since I’m teaching writing this semester, the week of the election I’ll also be reading my students’ poems about their experiences voting or not voting, for those who are not U.S. citizens.

What would you tell someone to encourage them to vote?

It’s not actually true that “people died so that you could vote.” People were murdered so that you could vote. People were lynched so that we can cast a vote without having to pay money, or show ID, or know how many bubbles are in a bar of soap. People were beaten and demeaned so that those of us who are not white, not male, and don’t own property can vote.

If you believe in something called revolution, or freedom, it is not going to happen through electoral politics. That does not absolve us; if we have the privilege to be eligible to vote, from participating in the process that we have. Voting is one of many tools to change the system, and everyone who wants to make change needs to use every single tool we have.

This press release was produced by City University of New York: Brooklyn College. The views expressed are the author’s own.



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