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Owen Voutsinas-Klose was officially declared a delegate for Joe Biden on June 16. Credit: Raymon Shi

Penn Democrats president and rising College senior Owen Voutsinas-Klose will serve as a delegate for former Vice President Joe Biden at the upcoming 2020 Democratic National Convention.

Voutsinas-Klose, who also serves as co-chair of Penn for Biden, was officially declared a delegate on June 16 after running in Pennsylvania’s primary election on June 2. 

As a delegate, Voutsinas-Klose will cast his vote for Biden to become the Democratic party’s presidential nominee at the DNC. Although delegates typically attend the Democratic convention, Voutsinas-Klose will cast his vote virtually or by mail due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DNC is still scheduled to take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in mid-August, but due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, state delegates have been asked to stay home this year. The convention will also be modified to include “live broadcasts and curated content,” according to a press release by organizers. 

Though Biden formally clinched the Democratic presidential nomination on June 5 after receiving the 1,991 delegates needed to earn the nomination, he is expected to travel to Milwaukee and accept the Democratic nomination in person.

Voutsinas-Klose said he acknowledges that Biden has struggled to gain the youth voting bloc, and that Biden has been criticized for his political record, including his support of the controversial 1994 Crime Bill. Still, Voutsinas-Klose said he wanted to be a delegate for Biden, largely because he believes the former Penn Presidential Professor of Practice is the best candidate to defeat President and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump due to his broad appeal to voters from various backgrounds.

“[Biden] is very open to different people’s positions, to changing his mind when he’s wrong, [and] making America a better place for everybody by including people of all political ideologies — including people who are much more liberal than him — in his cabinet,” Voutsinas-Klose said.

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted from May 25 through May 28, Biden holds a 10-point lead over Trump for the general election, with 53% of registered voters polled supporting Biden and 43% supporting Trump.

Jack Cahill, a rising College junior and co-director of Penn Justice Democrats, formerly Penn for Bernie, was also on the ballot as a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) but did not receive enough votes to be elected as a delegate for the Convention. 

Due to party rules, candidates who drop-out of the presidential race — like Sanders did on April 8 — are supposed to reallocate their delegates to the active candidates. The Biden campaign, however, has agreed to fill the delegate positions — that Sanders typically would be expected to give up — with Sanders' supporters, in an effort to avoid bitter feelings between the Democratic establishment and Sanders' supporters.

For Voutsinas-Klose, becoming a delegate is rewarding because of the people he was able to interact with during his campaign. In order to collect enough signatures to get his name on the ballot, Voutsinas-Klose petitioned across Philadelphia, where he met with local party activists and residents.

“I was able to get off campus and meet actual Philadelphians and talk to them about where they see the political process, what’s important to them, and see different issues through different lenses across the city,” he said. “I think that was definitely the most meaningful political experience I’ve had at Penn.”

Voutsinas-Klose emphasized the importance of youth participation in the upcoming election, especially among Penn students. Pennsylvania is currently an influential swing state that has the potential to determine the outcome of the presidential election.

“In my opinion, it’s the most consequential election of our lifetime,” Voutsinas-Klose said. “America is going to be unrecognizable if Donald Trump gets four more years, is able to appoint new Supreme Court judges, and write new laws, and we’re in the perfect spot to make a difference.”

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