October 9, 2003

CIPAC Working to Register New Voters

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As of last week, anyone who has walked through Ho Plaza has probably been stopped and asked by a member of the Cornell Israel Political Action Committee (CIPAC) if he or she would like to register to vote. As part of a large voter registration campaign, campus political groups such as the Cornell Democrats and CIPAC have been hard at work registering voters before the upcoming election season.

“Registering student voters is one of CIPAC’s main goals for this year. To that end, we will be running events aimed at registering students both on our own and together with other student organizations of all political affiliations. The large voter registration drive that began last week is a combined effort of a number of student organizations, including CIPAC, Cornell Democrats, Greens, COLA, APAA [Asian Pacific Americans for Action] and Democracy Matters,” said Jennie Berger ’04, CIPAC president.

While the registration campaign is nonpartisan, various groups such as CIPAC have specific goals in registering voters. CIPAC aims to register more voters to show support for Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and his pro-Israel stance.

“Congressman Hinchey has been to the Middle East on a number of occasions, and has a first-hand understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict. With the Congressman having invested a significant amount of time into promoting peace, it should come as no surprise that many of his newly-registered constituents are equally concerned about stabilizing the region,” said Ari Nathan Stern ’05, senior vice president of CIPAC.

Hinchey has “always been a strong supporter of Israel, and of Israel’s right to exist. He is also an opponent to violence in Israel,” said Kevin O’Connell, Hinchey spokesperson.

Though Hinchey’s congressional district includes many more people and institutions than just Cornell, he is appreciative of the support from students. “Cornell students represent a very small portion of people who vote in the congressional district, but Cornell students are very important to me and I am happy to speak at Cornell when I am invited,” Hinchey said.

In addition, Hinchey is critical of the current administration’s involvement with the Israeli-Palestinian issue. “This administration has been less directly involved in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. They have not had an ongoing envoy to the Middle East. … I think this administration has been less actively involved in the Palestinian issue than any previous administration. As a result, there has been an increase in violence. That has been very troubling,” Hinchey said.

Through initiatives such as the voter registration campaign, CIPAC has “cultivated a very close working relationship with Congressman Maurice Hinchey over the past couple years. Congressman Hinchey is a consistent supporter of Israel, the US-Israel relationship and the peace process,” Berger said.

The voting initiatives have been hugely successful thus far, with the Cornell Democrats counting more than 800 newly-registered voters to date, along with the 150 people registered with the help of CIPAC.

In addition to asking students if they are registered to vote, CIPAC is encouraging students registered to vote in their hometowns to switch their registrations to Ithaca because people are permitted to register to vote in only one place.

“Considering that Ithaca will be their home for the next four years, it would make sense for students to register in this district. Upon graduating Cornell, students can change their voter registration,” Stern said.

CIPAC plans to continue its registration campaign throughout the year, with special emphasis immediately prior to elections.

While CIPAC’s involvement in the voting registration campaign has a specific purpose, its general aim is just to involve more students in the democratic process.

“One of the primary goals of CIPAC’s voter registration drive, like many of the different programs we organize, is to engender an awareness on our campus of the policies of our government in regards to the Middle East. By registering students to vote, the hope is that students will then have the initiative to inform themselves of issues and of candidates’ positions on them,” Berger said.

Cornell Democrats president Tim Lim ’06 agreed, saying, “CIPAC, Dems and all the organizations involved are doing the same thing: we’re trying to register as many people as possible. The reasons behind it might be different, but the goals are the same: to register students on Cornell’s campus.”

Archived article by Erica Temel