By Evan Bourtis staff writer
On Tuesday Sept. 25, 107 Fisher students registered to vote for the first time or updated their registration during National Voter Registration Day. The Political Action Club and Feminist Alliance organized six-hour voter drive in Golisano Gateway.
At the event, students were able to fill out voter registration forms, absentee ballots, and update their registration, in preparation for the Nov. 6 general election. Students also could sign up to work at the polls on Election Day as election inspectors.
One of the people who helped organize the event was political science professor Kathleen Donovan. Donovan was impressed at how many students stopped by to register. Donovan pointed out that over three times more people registered at the voter drive this year compared to last year, when only 33 people registered.
“Tons of research shows that voting is a habit and if you get people into voting early, they become lifelong voters,” Donovan said.
2018 is an important election year, with all of 435 House seats and 35 of the 100 Senate seats up for grabs. On a local level, the election decides who will take the place of the late congresswoman Louise Slaughter and whether Andrew Cuomo will be re-elected as governor.
For freshman Pat Trivison, who registered at the event, it will be the first time he has a chance to vote. “I think it’s important to be registered to vote and I think voting is a really important thing to do, just to put your opinion out there,” Trivison siad.
Donovan explained how easy it is to vote once voters are registered. Voting in New York State requires no ID or paperwork. “In New York State, you don’t have to provide anything when you show up. You’ll tell them your name and they’ll find it in the voter list, assuming your in the correct polling place, and then you sign your name,” Donovan explained.
One of the students who helped out at the event was freshman Grace Wentworth. Wentworth is the Republican election fellows representative for Fisher, meaning that she is responsible for recruiting 30 Republicans to help with polling on Election Day, called election inspectors. Fisher also has a Democrat election fellow who’s responsible for recruiting an equal number of Democratic helpers, since New York State requires an equal number of helpers across both parties.
Wentworth decided to help with the general election because she believes that voting is a way to make voices heard.
“When you vote, you exercise your constitutional right…Everyone has a voice. Even if it’s not on, like, abortion or taxes, there’s always something that people are passionate about and they want to speak up for,” Wentworth said.
One person who registered at the event was freshman Sydney Merz. Merz registered because she is unhappy with the current administration’s actions and would like to politicians do more to stop gun violence and fight for women’s’ rights.
“I definitely think if more young people go out and vote, that will make a difference. Especially with a lot of the topics that’s big right now, like gun control and women’s rights,” Merz explained. “That’s all huge for the younger generation compared to the older generation that probably can’t relate as much. Especially with the gun control topic.”
Freshman Matt Murphy registered as part of an extra credit assignment for a class. Murphy is glad that his professor is encouraging students to participate in the election. “Most people care about their grades so it gets people to do it [register]. And once they’re registered, then hopefully they’ll vote and get to voice their opinion.” Murphy said.
Donovan said that college students don’t frequently have high turnouts and hopes that this event will encourage students to vote. According to a study at Tufts University, only 48.3 percent of eligible college students voted in 2016 election. That’s lower than the national average of 58 percent estimated by the U.S. Election Project.
According to Donovan, one of the main issues college students come across when trying to vote is being far away from their designated polling station, which are assigned based on residential address. If students are too far away or can’t find transportation to their polling station, then they can vote using an absentee ballot. The voter drive helped 22 students apply for absentee ballots.
One of the students who applied for an absentee ballot during the event was sophomore MacKenzie Purcell. Living at Fisher means Purcell will two hours away from home on Election Day.
“I knew if I wanted to register I needed my absentee ballot,” Purcell explained. “So, when I came in today, I got the form and it was only a few questions to fill out, so it wasn’t hard at all.”
Once students apply for an absentee ballot, they will receive a ballot by mail from their county’s board of elections. Then, they must mail their ballot to the board of elections at least a day before the election to cast their vote. Donovan explained that students must send in their application between 30 and seven days before the election to receive a ballot.
One misconception that Donovan said some voters had was the idea that the needed to vote for every race on the ballot for their vote to be counted. However, Donovan explained that, this isn’t the case.
“You could go in and vote just for the governor’s race and leave everything else blank if you want to and they’ll count your vote for governor’s race,” Donovan explained.