Two Penn students are running to be delegates at the Democratic National Convention for Philadelphia’s 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses Penn.
Owen Voutsinas-Klose, rising College senior and president of Penn Democrats, is running as a delegate for former Vice President Joe Biden. Jack Cahill, rising College junior and co-director of Penn Justice Democrats, previously known as Penn for Bernie, is running as a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Both will be on the ballot in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary — Voutsinas-Klose will be #21 on the ballot and Cahill will be #39.
As elected delegates, Voutsinas-Klose and Cahill would attend the Democratic National Convention and cast a vote for either Biden or Sanders to become the Democratic party’s presidential nominee. Delegates also help influence the party platform, as a presidential candidate needs to receive the majority of delegate votes in order to win the nomination.
Although Sanders ended his presidential campaign on April 8, he is still able to gather delegates in order to influence the Democratic Party platform. If Sanders receives at least 15 percent of the citizen vote in the primary election, he will get one or two delegates from Philadelphia.
The Pennsylvania primary will be held on June 2, and voters are encouraged to vote by mail. For those who are registered to vote in Pennsylvania, the deadline to apply for mail-in and absentee ballots is May 26.
To get their names on the ballot, Voutsinas-Klose and Cahill gathered over 250 signatures from eligible voters.
Cahill said he was contacted by one of Sanders’s delegate organizers after expressing interest in the position. After undergoing a small vetting process, he began to collect the signatures. During his campaign to be a delegate, Voutsinas-Klose received an endorsement from the Philadelphia Democratic Party and Philadelphia’s 27th Ward Democratic Committee.
Voutsinas-Klose said he has been a long-time supporter of Biden, a Penn Presidential Professor of Practice, and said he admires the empathy that Biden brings to politics. Voutsinas-Klose also said he appreciates how he is able to heighten his involvement in the democratic process by running for the delegate position.
“[Biden’s] somebody who you can connect to, somebody who cares about everyday people,” Voutsinas-Klose said. “It’s like running a mini-campaign for somebody who you like and you’re proud of.”
For Cahill, representing Sanders is important because he wants to fight for a progressive Democratic platform that includes Sanders’ policies. Cahill pointed to Sanders’ continued fight for universal health care, the Green New Deal, tuition-free colleges, and canceling student loan debt as the reason for his support of the former presidential candidate, even after he dropped out of the race.
Through leading Penn for Bernie, Cahill said he was able to get deeply involved in organizing for Sanders’ campaign. Cahill added he found a community with other people who held similarly progressive beliefs, which strengthened his belief in the progressive movement.
“I did not expect to meet so many individuals who believed in the same progressive vision of the country that I did,” Cahill said. “I think that collective solidarity is what really empowered me.”
Likewise, Voutsinas-Klose said he has been able to deepen his support of Biden through Penn Dems and found that through the group, he has been able to leverage his candidacy to get more resources from the Biden campaign for local college campuses.
“If they see that we’re a passionate group of people, the Biden campaign might be more keen on investing in Philadelphia college campuses where they need to win,” Voutsinas-Klose said.
Both Cahill and Voutsinas-Klose said their potential roles as delegates to the Democratic Party highlights the importance of youth participation in politics and the myriad of ways young people can get involved in the field.
“Most delegates aren’t college students [and] most delegates aren’t nineteen or twenty-years-old,” Cahill said. “I think that it is a good galvanizing tool to hopefully inspire young people to really get invested in the political process.”