Student organizations continue to promote civic engagement and political involvement following the midterm elections by holding post-election workshops, discussions and events.
Their efforts follow the record levels of turnout among Rice students this midterm season. A total of 753 students cast their votes on campus on Election Day, surpassing the turnout levels of the 2016 election, and an additional 545 students voted early.
Civic Duty Rice, a nonpartisan organization whose goal is to increase civic education and awareness, will host a post-election event next Saturday with Baker Ripley, a Houston nonprofit, to showcase Houston’s reaction to the midterm results through art.
According to Meredith McCain, Civic Duty Rice’s regional director, the event is part of a larger effort to provide more avenues for political expression.
“We as a club recognize the importance of giving young people more means to express and form their political opinions outside the immediate context of elections,” McCain, a Duncan College junior, said. “Art, whether it be visual, written or performed, is oftentimes used for political expression and can motivate those who interact with it to take action.”
The Texas Tribune reported that 51 percent of registered voters in Harris County cast ballots in the 2018 midterm elections, compared to 32 percent in 2014.
“Civic Duty Rice is very pleased with the voter turnout rates,” McCain said. “It’s a sign that people do put trust into our political system and believe in its potential to shape our lives.”
Juliette Turner, chairwoman of Rice University College Republicans, said she was thrilled by this year’s voter turnout among college students and hopes to see and even greater rise is future years.
“I believe that, due to the frequent discussions of politics on social media, college students are becoming more involved in the political process,” Turner, a Duncan College junior, said.
Turner said RUCR is pleased by the election results, which they have discussed at their Tuesday Topic meetings.
“During midterm elections, it is very rare for the president's party to hold the House,” Turner said. “In fact, the party of the sitting president has only gained seats in the House in two midterm elections in recent years— 1934 and 2002. The fact that Republicans were able to keep the Senate is proof that the president is doing a lot better in the eyes of Americans than many believe.”
According to Turner, RUCR plans to hold more formal discussions in the coming weeks and invite Republicans who won their races, including Dan Crenshaw and Sarah Davis, to speak at Rice.
Franz Brotzen, president of Rice University Young Democrats, said the increased turnout is a step in the right direction.
“This year’s dramatic surge in voter participation wasn’t a random occurrence,” Brotzen, a Brown College junior, said. “Beto O’Rourke’s visit overcrowded its 500-capacity venue. The national circus we’ve witnessed over the past two years motivated students to wait in line, sometimes for over an hour, to vote for sanity.”
Rice Left, an organization that describes itself as politically left of the Democratic Party, held a post-election workshop two days after Election Day to encourage continued student engagement.
“We must turn our efforts toward grassroots organizing,” the organization said in the Facebook event. “Our roles as students with some degree of privilege are essential in creating meaningful change within Houston.”
Bilal Rehman, a Duncan College junior who helped organize the workshop, said the event featured speakers from the Texas Organizing Project, a left-leaning nonprofit, and Students for Justice in Palestine.
“We felt that as Rice students, we’ve historically tended to focus on activism only within the framework of electoral politics,” Rehman said. “We wanted to open up the possibility of engaging in more grassroots organizing.”
According to McCain, students are starting to understand the direct consequences that politics and government can have.
“It’s our responsibility as young people, as the next generation of leaders, to take ownership of the processes shaping the world around us,” McCain said.
This story has been updated with responses from the Rice University College Republicans.