Dondi Ramirez would love to hand out more “I voted” stickers on Election Day.
The past two years, Ramirez has taught sociology and history at both Missouri Valley College in Marshall and State Fair Community College in Sedalia. He also was a Pettis County election volunteer and for the March 10 Presidential Preference Primary he greeted people as they came into the polling place at Grace Baptist Church, ensured they submitted their ballot properly and handed out those coveted stickers.
“Normally I do a little bit of everything, but this time it was a little bit smaller turnout,” he said, noting that no matter how many show up he still finds value in working the polls.
“I think politics and democracy are very important,” Ramirez said. “Personally, I am a little disappointed that our turnout was so low. Having worked with several students who have their own types of voter apathy, I want to figure out what it is about elections that people are so turned off about. I hear a lot of things about how elections can be rigged … but that could not be further from the truth. Elections are typically run very, very well.”
Ramirez said conversations with some of his students indicate that many who don’t vote feel they are not informed enough about the candidates and issues; one reason is they get the bulk of their information through social media. There are other factors, as well.
“For some, they have family members who have strong views one way or the other and sometimes they don’t want to disappoint their family by not having those same kinds of views,” Ramirez said. “Other times, they feel their votes just don’t count. The reality of it is we live in an area which is largely conservative and if you are a little more liberal your vote would not necessarily change that election. It’s the same if you are in a more liberal area and your views are more conservative.”
In other cases, potential young voters just don’t like or identify with the candidates or political parties. Ramirez has friends who are conservative but not fans of the current president based on his values, and other friends are more liberal, but they don’t align with the top two candidates in the Democratic presidential race. Ramirez said information about the candidates and platforms of the Libertarian, Green and Constitutional parties is hard to come by, so options seem more limited as young voters look for their political identity.
Ramirez has enjoyed his opportunities to interact with students at both Missouri Valley and SFCC.
“I get a lot of students from the area (at SFCC). … At Missouri Valley, I get students from all around the world, so their perspectives are quite different,” he said. “They’ve seen a lot of different things; their government systems are usually different, so they have a different take on freedoms and democracy than we have.”
On election days, Ramirez likes to see who comes in to vote; his experience is that “it tends to be very diverse” regarding age, gender and religion.
“I have just had so much fun doing it. The people I work with, the people I work under are all great,” he said. “I like the interactions I have with people.”
As a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, the April 7 general municipal election has been pushed back to June 2. Ramirez is hopeful more people will learn about the local races and ballot issues, then come out and let their voices be heard. He also wants people to understand that government is deeper than who is at fault for a specific issue or that anything can be solved by just aligning with a political party.
“All these issues are so much more complex,” he said. “Unless we deal with the complexity of those issues and stop looking for short and simple solutions, we probably will never really solve anything.”