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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

SMC Votes hosts event discussing current State of the Union

On Wednesday evening, SMC Votes hosted the first meeting of their "Politics and Pretzels" series. This series will consist of three meetings in Reignbeaux Lounge of Le Mans Hall, where students can gather to discuss the current political climate with other students and professors.

Libbey Detcher, a senior political science major and host of the event, explained who was sponsoring the three-part series.

“This event is mainly sponsored by SMC Votes, which I co-lead with sophomore Jean Ochoa.” Detcher said. “We decided to collaborate with the political science club to have a broader reach with students.”

For the first meeting, Detcher invited Saint Mary’s political science professor Sean Savage to speak with students on gerrymandering and the newly elected 118th U.S. Congress.

When asked what she was hoping students would take away from the event, Detcher said she “hope[s] we can facilitate good discussion so our campus community members can learn about recent political events.” 

To the same question, Savage said: “I hope that, regardless of their majors, students will develop a stronger interest in and awareness of American politics. ... Everyone is affected by what happens in politics and government.”

Detcher began the meeting by speaking on district lines that are drawn for elections in each state.

“My big focus on voting rights, in a roundabout way, is redistricting,” Detcher said. He explained that redistricting occurs every 10 years following the national Census. 

“When politicians are drawing these lines, they purposely include or exclude certain communities, often communities of color and marginalized communities,” Detcher said. “This dilutes the vote of those people and they’re not counted accurately.”

Savage then touched on the changes in the House of Representatives that occurred following the 2022 midterm election.

“The Democrats lost their very narrow majority, about five seats, while the Republicans gained their very narrow majority of five seats,” he said.

Then, Savage elaborated on the election of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House.

“In order for Kevin McCarthy to get enough votes to become Speaker, he had to give up certain powers,” Savage said. He said proxy voting — voting without physically being on the House floor, was going to be ending.

Savage also discussed the new 72-hour rule.

“Before a vote is scheduled, the members of the house have 72 hours to read it before voting on it,” he said. 

After Detcher and Savage spoke on gerrymandering and the newly-elected Congress, they opened the discussion up for questions or comments. For the next 15 minutes, the group engaged in conversations, shared opinions and answered each other’s questions.

Detcher, who interned for the U.S. House of Representatives last spring, spoke on the relevancy of politics for young people.

“For many students, this past midterm election was the first or second election they voted in,” she said. “An important part of voter mobilization efforts is to really emphasize the impact voters have on elections at all levels, as well as the policies produced by their representatives.”

Savage shared why he thinks the 118th Congress should be important to college students.

“As a result of the midterm elections, the Republicans won a narrow majority in the House of Representatives,” Savage explained. “It is unlikely that the House GOP will appropriate billions of dollars for the relief of student loan debt.”

The second part of the “Politics and Pretzels” series will be in Reignbeaux Lounge on Feb. 15th.

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