Youth Voter Surge Reflects on Marist Campus

According to early estimates, the 2018 midterm elections on Nov. 6 marked the highest youth voter turnout rate in 25 years, a fact that mirrors efforts taken by Marist organizations to increase campus political involvement.

The president of the Marist Democrats, senior Henry Pratt, explained how the club had been taking semester-long initiatives to increase campus political involvement.  The club’s executive board made sure students were registered to vote and seasoned them on the current social issues at stake.

Pratt explained how Marist has a significantly lower civic participation level and voter turnout rate amongst its students compared to other institutions in the Hudson Valley, such as Dutchess Community College, SUNY New Paltz, and Bard College.

“We are not out in the community nearly to the levels those other colleges are,” Pratt, a political science major, said. “So it’s really important that Marist College shows that it has a stake in this region, and that Marist students are involved.”

Before the election, the Marist Democrats had been working closely with the campaigns of Democratic nominees, including Antonio Delgado, New York’s congressional candidate, and Karen Smythe, who had been running for state senate.

Often times during primary election season, the club will endorse a candidate and continue to work closely with their campaign for the remainder of the election. Such was the case with Antonio Delgado, who went on to flip the congressional seat against Republican incumbent John Faso on Nov. 6.

The Marist Republican club likewise was approached for campaign help by representatives of John Faso and Marc Molinaro, who, despite his position as Dutchess County Executive, lost his race for New York governor against incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

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To ensure Dutchess County residents would show up at the polls this year, the Republican club had been knocking on doors, calling local residents, and even hosted a voter registration drive at the beginning of the semester.

“[People] always say the youth are the future, but we get to vote today,” Republican club president Joseph Perrotta said. “There’s no reason to look to the future if you’re not politically active and vote today.”

Both club presidents explained how Poughkeepsie, which falls within the 18th congressional district, is usually split 50-50 between Democrats and Republican voters, and therefore is one of the tightest voting districts for congressional, state legislative and state assembly elections.

“Any way you look at it, this is a big swing district, and your vote counts more here [than it would at home],” said Pratt, who has now battled two Marist presidents to secure automatic voter registration on campus.

The Marist Democrats club in particular has seen an apparent uptick in their membership numbers this year, which is believed to be a result of President Trump’s unpopularity among millennial voters.

Although many young voters have been led to believe their vote may not make much of a difference this midterm season, that is not the case for senior Nicholas Bradford.

“I think every election is an important election,” said Bradford, who considers himself to be extremely politically active. “The fact that some people either don’t vote or can’t be bothered to, even if they’re incredibly close to home, is a disservice to the American public.”

Bradford, a native Texan, was able to send in his absentee ballot early with the help of the registration tables that were scattered across campus as part of senior Julia McCarthy’s honors thesis project. According to Bradford, early voting for the midterm elections in his home state surpassed early voting rates seen during both the 2012 presidential election and the 2014 midterms.

“The higher the [voting number climbs], the more representative our government actually becomes,” Bradford said. “I hope that when things change in this election, the enthusiasm for voting carries forward. I hope our generation specifically remembers what it was like to have a vote of change.”

Shannon DonnellyComment