Katie Currid / The New York Times

Multiple student organizations encourage students to register to vote in anticipation of midterm elections.

September 30, 2018

In Anticipation of Midterms, Student Organizations Encourage Voter Registration

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As midterm elections loom near on Nov. 6, various organizations across campus are mobilizing to register students to vote, emphasizing the importance of civic engagement.

The University library is providing students with New York State registration forms, stamps to mail the registration forms and sheets with frequently asked questions, according to digital humanities librarian Eliza Bettinger.

Prof. David A. Bateman, government, says that college student turnout is especially low because of the structural disadvantages that students face.

“There’s a lot of obstacles,” he said. “In general, voter registration rates amongst students is terrible, turnout is terrible.”

That doesn’t mean that college student and new voters don’t matter, according to Prof. Richard Bensel, government.

“This is a generation of voters who are being integrated into the party system …  at a time when the Republicans are not offering candidates, people, personalities who are attractive, and, in some ways, the Republicans are mortgaging their future,” he said.

The Cornell Democrats, who declined to comment to The Sun, are running a registration table on Ho Plaza twice a week until the registration deadline, which is Oct. 12. They will register students Tuesday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Cornell Republicans have formed a coalition with the Cornell Vote Everywhere Coalition, “which includes both political groups such as the Cornell Democrats and the Cornell Political Union as well as nonpartisan communities such as the IFC and the Student Assembly,” to register students before Oct. 12, Michael Johns ’20, Cornell Republicans president, told The Sun in an email.

“At Cornell, many students live relatively insulated lives, and can’t see the impact that their elected officials are having on even this community, much less their communities at home or across the country,” Johns said. “Each voter has to make a decision to vote in November to take New York on a different path.”

Johns said the purpose of the coalition was to get people informed and registered to vote come election day.

“Contrary to popular belief, most people at Cornell want to vote. The goal of our coalition is to provide them with the resources to make that process as easy as possible, and to ensure that they are as informed as possible come Election Day,” Johns said.

Another organization mobilizing voters is Cornell Votes, “a non-partisan student organization dedicated to getting Cornell students registered and out to vote,” according to Keelin Kelly ’20, Cornell Votes co-president.

Keelin told The Sun that busy schedules lead students to believe “they don’t have the time” to vote or to request absentee ballots. Additionally, “a few students are also just generally apathetic to the process,” Keelin said.

Alexia Heinrich ’20, co-president of Cornell Votes, said that out-of-state students are often unsure how to vote by absentee ballots or do not know that they can register to vote in New York, which prevents them from voting.

Griffin Smuts ’21, vice president of Cornell Votes, acknowledged the importance of voting, saying that voting ensures “the privileges which we enjoy today.”

“As a gay man, it is not lost on me that many of the rights which I enjoy were guaranteed to me by millions of Americans who cast their ballots in favor of my ability to love freely,” Smuts said.

To combat voter apathy, Cornell Votes is reminding students of the competitive midterm elections in Tompkins County.

“We remind [students] that regardless of what political ideology they subscribe to, there is a competitive congressional election going on in this district, where their vote can have an impact in debatably one of the most important midterm elections in this country’s history,” Keelin said.

“If everyone took a few more minutes out of their lives to vote, we would likely have much more representative governing bodies than we do now. So, register by October 12, vote on November 6, and have your voice heard,” Keelin added.