Being an elected official isn’t a walk in the park. But on Oct. 14, Doug Jones did just that. The Alabama senator was greeted by 20 young people at Monnish Park Wednesday afternoon where he casually engaged with his supporters before Election Day.
This event was hosted by the Tuscaloosa Democrats, who enforced mask-wearing and socially distancing for the hour that Jones made his appearance. They also offered a table where people could register to vote or request their absentee ballot.
Jones, who is running for re-election this November, is opposed by Republican candidate Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn football coach and Florida resident. While Jones spent a majority of his time discussing his own plans and policies, he did not hold back from pointing out Tuberville’s flaws.
“I’m running against a guy who doesn’t believe in science and is following Donald Trump’s lead,” Jones said. “With folks like that in the Senate, we’ll be in trouble.”
Jones, whose slogan is “One Alabama,” criticized Tuberville’s tactic of making this election an issue of “us vs. them.”
“[Tuberville] is not about public service, he is on an ego trip,” Jones said. “We’re doing this for the right reason.”
Jones made it clear that getting through the pandemic was his number one priority. Jones said the virus relief package that recently went through Congress had “good framework,” though he did not agree with all of it.
When discussing topics of minimum wage and student loan forgiveness, Jones noted that these would not be overnight changes but something legislators can certainly work toward. Jones is also looking to shorten the FAFSA form, which would simplify the student financial aid process.
Jones is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act, which looks to codify existing LGBTQ+ rights expansion bills. It would also amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to extend nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ+ identifying Americans for employment, housing, credit, federally-funded programs, public accommodations and jury service.
“We need to move forward, where everyone has an equal shot,” Jones said.
In a conversation sparked by a question from an attendee, Jones discussed Trump’s actions following the killing of George Floyd, saying that Trump’s suspension of diversity training was the “wrong way to go.”
“Progress was made, but not enough,” Jones said. “We cannot pretend everything is okay.”
Jones is against the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, who is slated to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Jones clarified that his stance does not necessarily have to do with Barrett, but he said that in order to protect the Senate as an institution, no replacement should be confirmed until after the election.
Jones has also endorsed presidential candidate Joe Biden, who he calls a “friend of 40 years” after they met back in law school.
When it comes to absentee voting, which is especially popular at a campus where 56% of students are from out of state, Jones emphasized the importance of “doing it now.”
“You have to cross the I’s and dot the T’s,” Jones said. He called the absentee voting process ‘legit’ but made sure attendees were aware of all the necessary steps, such as signing the ballot and enclosing it in the correct envelope. All absentee ballots in Alabama must be received no later than the fifth calendar day prior to the election.
When one student complained about inadequate signage at Tuscaloosa polling places, Jones pointed them in the direction of the Voter Protection Hotline.
“Voter protection is voter education,” Jones said.
Jones is also an advocate for Election Day to be a national holiday and for more early voting options to be available in Alabama.
When talking about the importance of young people’s use of social media to encourage civic engagement, Jones joked that he doesn’t use Facebook much, “because all my high school friends are Republicans and they don’t like me no more.”
Sean Atchinson, a freshman who attended the event, was unafraid to share his concerns with Jones.
“I am scared of this election outcome,” Atchinson, a member for the UA College Democrats, said. “Scared more than ever.”
Jones assured Atchinson that his fear was justified, but also useful as a motivating factor.
In a message to UA students, Jones said to “get engaged, make your voice heard, learn about the political process, and get registered to vote.”
“Even if things go blue, don’t say we’re done,” Jones said. “Because that is when the real work and real engagement begins.”