Overview of the Upcoming Election—What’s at Stake?
News about voter registration day has been everywhere—in the news, social media, and all over our campus—and for good reason! Voting is important, especially in a political climate as divided and turbulent as our current one.
A lot of seats hang in the balance in the upcoming General Election (435 U.S. House seats and 33 U.S. Senate seats, in addition to 6,665 state positions and thousands of local ones outside the Washington scene—36 states will elect governors this year) and whoever makes it out to the polls has the chance to make a difference in the shape of our national agenda for the rest of this year, and up until the next presidential election.
The Importance of Voting
When only a small percentage of our population votes, the results don’t accurately reflect what the American people want. If the majority of young voters don’t make it to the polls, our demographic has literally no say. There must be a reason why traditionally, so many college students have chosen not to vote. I’ve asked around campus and found that the two greatest concerns that Marist students have about voting are:
They feel angry and exhausted by the state of politics
They don’t think that their vote counts for anything
In response to feeling sick of the political process, I’d like to say that while that is more than understandable and your frustration is absolutely shared, what is throwing away your vote going to do? Refusing to cast a ballot means that you have not contributed to the outcome of the election and you aren't doing any favors for yourself or the country.
To those that don’t think we have any real say in the election, you’re probably not alone. Chances are that if you feel this way, you’re not the only one abstaining from voting simply because you don’t think it matters, or because you don’t care. And yet, I want you to know that this is a problem. If college students feel that their vote doesn’t matter, then no one from our generation is voting. Hence, we have virtually no say in who holds office and makes the decisions that affect all of us. And more importantly, that line of thinking is wrong because you do have a say. Young voters could make a huge difference if they actually voted.
Think about it. Marist College alone has over 6,000 students. If all 6,000 students voted, that would undoubtedly contribute to the results. Alone, your vote may not make a huge difference. But together our generation can. If every college student in the United States turned out to vote, imagine the impact. This is why, besides personally registering to vote, you should encourage your friends and classmates to register too.
Marist Votes! The Absentee Ballot Drive
On November 6, all American citizens age 18 and over who have registered to vote will cast these votes to determine who controls the House and Senate and this year, the race is nail-biting.
That age range includes every single one of us at Marist. In fact, for some of you—I’m looking at the freshman!—the midterm elections will be your first chance to vote, ever. Your first chance to have a say! And yet, voter turnout among young people is notoriously low, which is one of the driving inspirations for Julia McCarthy (’19) to focus her honors thesis on combating this issue.
Her vision translated into the Absentee Ballot Drive, and it was brought to life through her efforts and the efforts of the volunteers who gave their time to run it. The drive was held on campus from October 1st through the 4th, with tables in the Champ Breezeway, Library, Lowell Thomas, and the North End Dining Hall.
The Absentee Ballot Drive successfully brought in hundreds of students. Volunteers helped them register (if they had not done so already) and mail out ballot requests, to allow them to vote away from home while living on campus. The results speak for themselves but don’t take it from me, take it from Julia! We asked her to provide some reflection on the outcome of the drive as well as political involvement on campus, and she offers great insights.
Spotlight on Julia McCarthy:
How many absentee ballot requests did you collect in total?
Right now, we have more than 400 ballots collected. Some are still trickling in (people collected from their roommates, people returning Connecticut ballots, etc) so I don't have a final number yet.
Did you make note of any facts or figures like what states were represented, which of the 4 table locations got the most traction, etc.?
As to be expected considering the school's demographics, New York and New Jersey were the largest states represented. The library and the breezeway had the most traffic, but all four tables were successful in collecting application forms. I will be doing a survey after Election Day to collect more demographic information as well as political background, such as if the student ever voted before.
Did anything about the drive surprise you?
The most asked question at each of the tables was whether this was a general or primary election (that is a question on a lot of the forms). That really surprised me. It's a reminder that even though I live and breath politics, we have to do a lot better of a job teaching people from a young age how this all works.
The other thing that surprised me was how difficult it all was. The biggest lesson I learned from this project is simply that it is too hard to vote. Each state has different absentee ballot rules, different deadlines, and different forms. It got to the point where I had to call Connecticut's Secretary of State's office because I couldn't make sense of their rules that I found online. That shouldn't be the case.
How do you feel political activism is on the Marist campus?
I think its hard for me to judge the campus as a whole. I know in my friend group, we all have become more politically involved and aware since the Presidential Election in 2016. I think that even though there are no student protests marching through campus, that it doesn't mean students here aren't paying attention. I do hope my project raised political interest on campus, and if I even get one student to vote that never has before, it'll be worth it.
Are you proud of how everything went?
Well, yes! I started working on this project about a week after I arrived on campus, and have devoted a lot of time to it ever since. I knew it was ambitious both in scope and the timing. Thankfully, I have amazing advisors like Dr. Snyder and Dr. Boscarino who supported me through the whole process, and an incredible group of volunteers. My goal was to collect 100 ballot applications a day, and to me it was a lofty goal. When we exceeded that the first day, I was thrilled. And then we did it again, and again, and again — each day. I was warned by some students on campus that an absentee ballot drive was a waste of time because of historically low voter rates among young people. I was told that all my marketing wouldn't really make a difference. But it did — and we succeeded, and I couldn't be prouder.
The Absentee Ballot Drive helped plenty of Marist students get on board this election season. McCarthy’s creation of the drive showed her passion for the political process, as did everyone else’s choice to volunteer for the cause. And each and every one of the several hundred students that approached the table and chose to participate showed that the rest of our campus shares the interest as well and only needed the convenience and ease provided by the drive to get involved.