Over 50 University and community members mobilized in Hufnagle Park to advocate for the counting of all ballots before an official presidential winner is announced. The action, organized by Green New Deal Lewisburg (GNDL), was precipitated by the ambiguous results of the 2020 election – without a clear winner as of Thursday afternoon – as well as President Trump’s premature claim of victory early Wednesday morning.
“The number one point of this action is that we want to celebrate all of the election workers who are coming out to make sure that our voices count in this election,” GNDL coordinator Lauren Ziolkowski said. “One of our biggest concerns is that the people in office right now are going to be undermining the voices of the people, and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“If you’re going to have an election in America, there shouldn’t be an issue of throwing out mail-in ballots and votes. We want it to be a fair election, so that’s the purpose of the event. And we are also trying to get people more aware of what’s going on,” Marielle Miller, another organizer, said. “It’s to draw attention for everybody — not just public officials.”
On Wednesday, Union County officials indicated that they would not be counting ballots received from Wednesday to Friday, in opposition to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision that such votes would be valid. The county reversed their decision later that day and will count all ballots through Monday. Synder and Northumberland County will separate ballots received during the grace period, though an official determination has not yet been made as to whether the ballots will be accepted.
The Nov. 4 demonstration saw GNDL members holding signs and banners with a variety of slogans ranging from “Protect the Results,” “Our Communities Count,” and “Our Voices Count” to “Our Futures Matter.” Community members who attended the action were also welcome to hold a sign and participate throughout.
Lewisburg residents Pat Piper-Smyer and Bernadine Richard attended the event after hearing about it from Associate Professor of Environment Studies and GNDL organizer Andrew Stuhl. “We are here because we want to make sure every vote is counted. We are very concerned — we know that our governor wants to do the right thing, but we are not convinced that the legislature does,” Piper-Smyer said.
Mary Collier ’21, a leader for the organization, began by giving a speech stressing the importance of having a fair election. “Elections are decided by voters, not by decree,” Collier said. “We’re going to ensure that every voice is heard and every vote is counted until we swear in a government of, by and for the people.”
Organizers and attendees were invited to share their own stories on why the election is important and what is at stake for them; responses ranged from “a livable future” to “the environment” to “social justice.” GNDL members Sydney Polinchock ’23, Ziolkowski, El King ’22 and Stuhl each gave speeches on the significance of this year’s election and their reasons for getting involved with the Sunrise Movement. Polinchock discussed her own family’s experiences with climate change and the wildfires in California, while Ziolkowski and Stuhl emphasized their frustration at the current administration’s policies and handling of the election.
“[Trump] will say that we are trying to steal the election when it’s our communities that count, it’s our futures that count, it’s our votes that count,” Stuhl said.
Between speeches, the group asked participants to join them in song, singing pieces from the Sunrise Movement’s song handbook. Collier, Miller and Stuhl concluded the demonstration by taking turns reading from the poem, “Active Hope” by Joanna Macy before inviting attendees to sing one final song.
“This is the first presidential election that I’ve voted in, and it’s really important to me that we have a government that cares about the people, and that works for the people. It’s absolutely disgusting to me that my vote might not count in this election,” attendee Emma Kristjanson-Gural said. “I want to make sure that that happens and that every single person across the United States who voted feels like they had a say in who gets to be the next president.”
Kristjanson-Gural’s mother, Kathy, echoed this sentiment. “I’m outraged that Trump has called the election and says he’s won, and that he thinks it’s okay to call it before all the votes are counted,” she said. “Every single vote needs to be counted. That’s why I’m here.”