Variety of government officials visit RMU to encourage voting


To kick off the RMU Voter Registration Drive, six local politicians came to campus to speak at the Rogal Family Chapel on April 4 to emphasize the importance of voting and voter involvement. The panelists included State Sen. Matt Smith; State Rep. Mark Mustio; State Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, Jim Vitale, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Moon Twp.; James Burn, Chair of the PA Democratic Party; and Nancy Mills, Chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Party.

The discussion, titled “Voting and Getting Involved in Politics” was moderated by Ken LaSota, RMU geology professor and mayor of the Borough of Heidelberg, and sponsored by the RMU Honors Program. Among topics discussed were the importance of voting, responsibilities of politicians on varying levels, how and why to get involved with campaigns and even the occasional comment about policy in recent years.

To put the importance of local elections in perspective, Vitale used Yorktown Hall in Moon Township as an example of why RMU students’ votes really do count. Hundreds of students live in that building, but the zoning changes that had to be made would not have been possible without local government.

With millions of votes cast in the Presidential and Midterm elections, many people not registered wonder if one vote can really matter. Though not a distinct memory for many students, the too close to call election of 2000 is an example of how just a few hundred votes can make all the difference.

“That year taught us all that the only vote that doesn’t count is the vote that isn’t cast,” said Mills.

The emphasis was not just placed on voting, but on being an informed voter. The panelists told students that they should make the most of all the access they have to information now and use it for good.

“Please stay in tune and in touch because the future depends on you. I don’t want just a handful of people who are elected in control, the people they serve also should know what they need” said Mustio.

It was also noted that regardless of ads, campaigns, and money spent that the most valuable type of advocating for a candidate is word of mouth. The panelists encouraged students to get behind a candidate they truly believe in, and tell everyone they know about them. To someone who may be on the fence, a personal recommendation may be the tie breaker.

The moral of the discussion is that age is not a factor in the amount of difference that can be made by an individual. Ravenstahl began representing his district at the age of 25, and related to the students as an RMU alumnus.

To get all RMU students involved, the voter registration drive will be held April 14-17 in the PNC Colonial Cafe, but the Office of Civic Engagement in Nicholson 250 has voter forms available all year. The purpose is to get students registered to vote so they can participate in not only the important midterm elections this fall, but also in local elections.

“If you don’t vote, you validate that thought that you are irrelevant in this process” said Burn.