LWV/ABC members encourage NC students to “Gear up to Vote”

By Sara M. Chase, schase@ashlanddailypress.net
Ashland Daily Press, November 9, 2016

Sara M. Chase/Staff Photo  Mary Rehwald of the League of Women Voters/Ashland-Bayfield Counties encourages Northland College freshman Ben Matteson and NC junior Xavier Baez to "Gear Up to Vote," showing them a sample ballot. 

Sara M. Chase/Staff Photo
Mary Rehwald of the League of Women Voters/Ashland-Bayfield Counties encourages Northland College freshman Ben Matteson and NC junior Xavier Baez to "Gear Up to Vote," showing them a sample ballot. 

For the last couple of weeks, Joyce Neumann and Mary Rehwald of the League of Women Voters/Ashland-Bayfield Counties have been hanging out on Northland’s campus, working alongside of the Northland College Student Association in an effort to encourage students to “Gear up to Vote.”

The LWV/ABC is “is a nonpartisan political organization whose main objective is to promote political responsibility through the informed and active participation of all citizens in government at all levels, especially locally,” while the NCSA “strives to build community among Northland College students, the campus, and the Chequamegon Bay area Northland College Student Organization is the only student-run campus government in the state of Wisconsin.”

Neumann said she’s had a marvelous experience representing the LWV/ABC on campus interacting with students.

“We did not talk politics, we just talked about how the students could vote and what they had to do to get to vote and it was very, very exiting,” said Neumann, adding that the NCSA offered shuttle rides to take students to and from their poles every half hour starting at seven in the morning on Tuesday. “Those kids are so organized and so ready to be there for the students and to get the vote out.

“If our Congress cooperated with each other and was as enthusiastic about serving the population that Congress is supposed to serve, the way that these students are ready to serve their constituents – the other students – we would have such a successful democracy.”

Seeing the members of the NCSA actively work with their peers encourages Neumann.

“I have great hope for democracy, seeing the students and meeting so many that wanted to vote,” Neumann said adding, that the NCSA was very helpful to her and Rehwald while they were getting their stuff set up.

“This is the second time I have organized a table at Northland for the League of Women Voters,” said Rehwald. “The first time was during the spring primary, when the student turnout was extraordinary.”

Rehwald has a long connection with Northland as she worked there for 15 years and has kept in contact with many of people there.

“They are the inheritors of the future, and for some this is the first time they can vote,” Rehwald said. “Joyce Neumann and I attended a Northland College Student Association meeting to let them know we wanted to set up a table for seven days, and the NCSA worked out a plan to drive people to the polls every half hour today.”

When she came of age, Rehwald said she was part of a huge movement of young people that participated in the political process.

“It was critical for us then, and it is even more critical now, with the issues of climate change, income equality, and clean water,” said Rehwald. “I feel like it’s important for young people to hear that in our country, elections really matter. I want to let students know about the League, about the fact that they should consider taking part in local elections as I did for 10 years on the City Council.”

The fact that – within her lifetime – Rehwald has known women who were born before they were given the right to vote has influenced her.

“The League has been instrumental in getting that message across,” said Rehwald. “It is a right that needs to be reinforced and with every generation, as it can be easily taken away. The bulk of history is the kings and lords who were the decision makers and it has only been in the later part of our lifetime that women, people of color have had this right.”

Since there are important issues that the candidates stand for, Rehwald said she encourages students to educate themselves and read about them.

“This is not a time for cynical thinking. This is a time for social thinking. We can’t throw up our hands, as this was not the stance of our ancestors,” said Rehwald. “People represent different stances on things like climate change and minimum wage, clean water, mining and large factory farms, the fossil fuel destruction of our planet, ending inequitable economic relationships.”

Rehwald said she has always followed the progressive Wisconsin tradition.

“And as a UW-Madison graduate, I have looked to our state to lead in issues of public education, civil service reform, fair elections, and making voting easy for people,” said Rehwald. “The League supports our environmental regulations. A lot of students are small town Wisconsinites that we have stood up to progressive reform in our state.”

NC freshman Ben Matteson and NC junior Xavier Baez stopped by the LWV/ABC “Gear up to Vote” booth and briefly chatted on Tuesday.

“In general, voting I think is really awesome and you get to experience and exercise your rights as a citizen,” said Baez, adding that he already voted in his home state of Florida.

“As a citizen it’s your right to vote and your right to make sure this country gets what you want,” said Matteson, a first-time voter who noted that he found the whole voting processes to be pretty easy.

Rehwald concluded that she enjoyed speaking with and helping to educating students about their voting rights.

“I am also very aware that this election Wisconsin may determine control of the senate. Students should know about this,” said Rehwald. “I love talking to them about participation in government.”