Temple international students discuss election season

Feeling that voting is vital, students hope their peers feel compelled to cast their ballots.

Lasse Grimmer, a senior adult and organizational development major and international student from Germany, stands on Temple University’s Main Campus in Philadelphia on Oct. 15. | MILES WALL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

In her home country, Taiwan, I-Yun Lee sees people vote without having to be pushed to, a stark difference from the constant campaigns urging United States citizens to vote on her social media.

“It’s weird to see that since back home, everyone just does it,” said Lee, a senior sport and recreation management major. “I thought voting is something that you naturally do.”

As an international student, Lee is on the outside looking in during this election season while studying and living in the United States. 

International students, who make up 7.6 percent of Temple students, can be impacted by issues candidates run on like immigration and education policies, but do not vote in U.S. elections without citizenship. 

Some policies made by the U.S. government directly affect international students, like an ICE education policy that was reversed on July 14 that would’ve revoked visas for international students not taking in-person classes, the New York Times reported. 

This policy would’ve impacted students like Lee immensely if enacted, she said.

“Although it’s no longer an issue now, it was a very huge concern for international students studying within the United States,” Lee added. “It feels like we are exposed, especially through the pandemic when it’s not our choice.”

Sarah Park, a sophomore management information systems major from South Korea, feels that voting is crucial. 

“It’s essential to vote because it’s an opportunity for change,” Park said. “It’s our duty to speak up and voting means having the right to choose.”

The last South Korean election, held on April 15, had a 66.2 percent voter turnout rate, the highest since 1992, despite being held during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Post reported.  

“It’s a national holiday, so everyone has off and is able to vote,” Park said. “It’s kind of surprising that there isn’t a similar process here or why people don’t take the advantage to do so.”

Lasse Grimmer, a senior adult and organizational development major from Germany  has voted in every election in Germany since he turned 18, even requesting and completing mail-in ballots while studying within the U.S.

German elections are based on a personalized proportional representation system, meaning that citizens vote to decide how many seats in the Bundestag, or German Parliament, will be taken by each political party, CNBC reported. 

In Germany’s 2017 parliamentary election, 69 percent of voting age citizens cast ballots, compared to 55 percent in the U.S., according to a 2018 report by the Pew Research Center.

He believes that as citizens of democracy, people not only have a right but a responsibility to vote to have their voice and political opinion be heard, he said.

“Voting is the only thing that empowers the people to be able to elect somebody to represent them and create change within their communities,” he said.

Grimmer leads the education subgroup of Owls for Justice, a student-athlete group dedicated to combating racism and social injustice. He got involved because education is the most important part of ensuring human rights, Grimmer said. 

“For me, it’s important that every human has the same chances and gets treated the same way regardless of their race, sex, religion, or ethnicity,” he added. “I wanted to be a part of that change to fight against and eradicate systemic racism in this country and worldwide. ” 

While Park cannot vote because she is not a U.S. citizen, she hopes people exercise their right to vote in person or by mail. 

“I think it’s important for everyone to get out, vote and to let your voice be heard regardless of your age,” Park said. “As long as you’re informed enough and are able to, you should be able to vote. This affects everyone, even the next generations to come. Voting is more than yourself.” 

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