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November 2018


The FA is getting students registered and out to vote
Cynthia Eaton


FA officers help register students Cynthia Eaton and her student club conduct student voter registration drives at Eastern
The FA has been hosting campus student voter registration drives for the past few years to help increase student voting rates.

Above left: FA officers Dante Morelli, Kim Ng Southard and Kevin McCoy speak with students who are registering to vote on the Ammerman Campus. (photo by Kevin Peterman)

Above right: FA Secretary Cynthia Eaton serves as faculty advisor to the Activist Coalition at Eastern (ACE), whose student leaders are shown registering three new voters; this is third year of FA/student collaboration on voter registration drives at Eastern. (photo by Cynthia Eaton)

The millennial generation is growing in size, and a number of sources (Newsweek, CNN, NPR and Rock the Vote, among others) have declared that they currently outnumber, or soon will outnumber, Baby Boomers in the voting booth.

But those conversations only matter if college-age voters actually get out and vote.

Campus Vote Project indicates that only 42 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds said they were registered to vote in 2014, the lowest percentage in four decades, and only 17 percent actually cast a ballot in the 2014 elections.

Unfortunately, these numbers are even lower during midterm elections, with only about 11 to 13 percent of the electorate being youth voters in midterms between 1994 and 2014. The Pew Research Center's FactTank makes clear that this trend might continue this year:

Generation X, Millennials and the post-Millennial generation make up a clear majority of voting-eligible adults in the United States, but if past midterm election turnout patterns hold true, they are unlikely to cast the majority of votes this November. Not only are younger adults less likely to participate in midterm elections, but Millennials and Gen Xers have a track record of low turnout in midterms compared with older generations when they were the same age.

This is problematic because voting is a habit and the earlier voters begin, it is believed that they'll be more likely to vote and to persist in voting each year.

The FA believes that our students should not view voting as a choice but as a civic duty, a right, a privilege—and that's why we've been hosting student voter registration drives for the past few years.

The FA is getting students active

  students registering to vote
Students at the Ammerman Campus registering to vote on October 8 with Dante Morelli. (photo by Kevin Peterman)

At the Ammerman Campus this semester, the FA hosted a voter registration drive on October 8 in the Babylon Student Center. On the Eastern Campus, the FA's IDEA team collaborated with the student club Activist Coalition at Eastern (ACE), which conducted two drives per week from September 24 to October 10 (the deadline to register for the 2018 election was October 12).

There is hope that our students can and will make a difference in this year's midterm elections. As Politifact notes,

...there is an increase in millennials and Gen Xers who are now identified in voter registration lists, which are used by party and organizations to create voter mobilization lists. That means that these blocs might cast more ballots than in the past if parties and other groups are successful at mobilizing them.

It's one thing to get students to register to vote. It's another to get them to actually exercise their vote.

This is a conversation I've had with my Activist Coalition at Eastern students, and they responded by creating and hosting an Election Day 2018 "Need a Ride / Give a Ride" campaign, for which students who are willing to give a fellow student a ride to their local polling place sign up on one sheet, and students who need a ride sign up on another sheet. Those needing a ride will be in contact with a peer who lives in their community on Election Day so that lack of transportation won't prevent them from getting to exercise their vote. A couple FA members are volunteering to give rides to students who need them as well.

One student, who prefers not to share her name, says her mom is a single mother who works two back-to-back shifts and won't get any special time off on Election Day. So if her mother doesn't get home in time for her to vote before the voting place closes, she won't get to vote. She doesn't have her own car and takes the bus to campus and is grateful for a ride from another Eastern student on Election Day.

Help students to be BallotReady

Another common reason for students to not vote is they feel that they aren't educated enough about politics and, they reason, not voting is better than casting an uneducated vote. Thus, we encourage students to rely on a free, nonprofit and nonpartisan website like BallotReady.

Once you enter your street address into BallotReady, it shows you where your local polling place is and presents information about local, state, federal and judicial candidates as well as any referendums. For each position, there's a note about what that position entails. For each candidate, as available, there's information about their education, experience, endorsements and positions on a variety of issues.

Students find BallotReady easy to use and—what they like best of all—is they can save their choices and then email or print their electronic "ballot" and take it with them when they go to vote on November 6.

Please consider directing your students to BallotReady, Vote Smart, or other sites like the New York State Board of Elections website and its Find Your Polling Place page, District and Representative Information page, etc.

It's imperative that we work together to help them understand voting as a civic responsibility and to develop this important habit from a young age.