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Penn State Student Shares Experience On The Campaign Trail

After months of of buildup and hype, this year’s election season has finally come to a close. And while many folks are familiar with the challenges voters face during a typical election season, most don’t know what it’s like to be on the other side of the ballot.

To learn more about just that, we sat down with Penn State student Jared Martin, who ran as a state representative for Pennsylvania’s 147th District this fall.

Martin is a junior majoring in engineering science. As the president of Penn State’s Theme Park Engineering Club, Martin’s dream job is building theme parks. However, he’s had a passion for student government since middle school.

“I have always thought it was a very cool and humbling thing to serve your peers,” Martin said. “At Penn State, I’ve been involved in UPUA, the Schreyer Student Council, and other things like that.”

The idea of serving your own community is something that Martin has always appreciated, and it was one of the driving forces behind his decision to run for office. As a Libertarian, Martin did not see the ideas of his party represented on the ballot, so he set out to represent them himself.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t know anything about possibly being a third party because the question they always as you is, ‘Are you a Democrat or are you a Republican?’” Martin said. “They don’t say, ‘Shat are you?’ And I never fit into any cookie-cutter mold that was presented to me, so when I discovered third parties, I really latched onto it.”

Admittedly, Martin knew he was not going to win the race, which is why he centered his campaign around messaging. He said his approach was two-fold: He wanted to share the Libertarian message, which is “small but smart government” and give voters more choices in politics.

Martin has always been disappointed that in a country of more than 3 million people, we often think that just two candidates on the ballot can represent all views and backgrounds.

“No two people are alike and have the same ideas about the entire world, so to think we can just whittle everything down to two candidates always kind of bugged me,” Martin said. “I ran to give people an option and to let them ponder ideas like that.”

Martin said that while many people like the idea of a third-party – and the idea of being independent-minded – very few people are aware of how difficult it is to run as a third-party candidate. One of the largest obstacles Martin faced throughout his campaign was obtaining enough signatures to get his name on the ballot.

Beginning in early March, while his opponents needed to collect about 300 signatures, Martin had to collect upwards of 500 signatures to secure his spot. It’s a task that is difficult in and of itself, let alone during a global pandemic.

Technically speaking, Martin needed only 316 signatures to get his name on the ballot, but he said that when you are collecting signatures for ballot access outside of the two main parties, candidates shoot for double the required amount.

“If I collected 325 signatures – so nine more than I needed – my Democratic and Republican opponents would take me to court and actually go line by line and try and say that people didn’t sign right,” Martin said. “They try to invalidate signatures.”

Although the process had its ups and downs, Martin assured us that his experience was eye-opening, and he was glad he did it.

For now, he will be shifting his focus back to his schoolwork. Down the line, Martin believes that he will find himself serving his peers however he best can.

“Everybody has a voice in politics right now, and young people are definitely speaking their voices, as we saw in this election. I encourage them to get further involved,” Martin said. “Even if they don’t run for office – working for your local township, volunteering for your community, volunteering in your county – it all goes a long way.”

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About the Author

Abby Han

Abby is a freshman chemistry major from Hershey, Pennsylvania -- which means she's your gal whenever you have a craving for some chocolate. Born and raised a Nittany Lion, she loves all things Penn State. You can typically find her watching Friends, drinking Bubly, or taking timer pics on Snapchat. If you want to exchange cheesy puns, follow her on Twitter @_abbyhan.

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