Cornell Votes held its second-annual Civic Celebration in Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room on Sunday to celebrate Cornell’s historic voter turnout this year and recognize civic engagement leaders.
Cornell Votes is a University-sponsored nonpartisan student organization within the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement. The organization was established in 2020 to expand voter turnout and democratic engagement on campus.
“Students come to Cornell from different states, knowledge about civic engagement and opinions on who to vote for,” said Patrick Mehler ’23, co-founder and president of the organization. “Cornell Votes prides itself on helping all students vote regardless of where, when, how or for whom; only through Cornell Votes and its dedication to nonpartisanship can every Cornellian be engaged in the civic process.”
Serena Wang ’25, Cornell Votes’s communications department chair and incoming vice president of internal operations, emphasized that the organization’s commitment to nonpartisanship is especially important in a divided political atmosphere.
“[Nonpartisanship allows us to] serve as a bridge between the left and the right, building coalitions rather than furthering the divide in this polarized era,” Wang said.
At the Civic Celebration, leaders of Cornell Votes described the organization’s accomplishments from the past year.
During its two years of operation, Cornell Votes advocated for New York State legislation that requires on-campus polling locations at college campuses with at least 300 registered students. Governor Kathy Hochul signed this legislation into law this past April.
For the first time, almost all Cornellians living on campus were able to vote on campus at Alice Cook House. As a result, the 2022 midterm election saw an over 317 percent increase in in-person, on-campus voter turnout compared to the 2018 midterm election.
Cornell Votes also celebrated continuous growth in Student Assembly election turnout. The fall 2021 elections saw a 31 percent increase in voting from first-year and transfer students from fall 2020. However, voter turnout did decrease during the fall 2022 election.
By reflecting on their progress, Cornell Votes members are able to recognize their goals coming to fruition.
“Since we usually have several different projects happening at once, [the Civic Celebration] is a good time for us to step back and think about each project and its impacts,” said Elena Woo ’24, coalition chair and incoming president of Cornell Votes. “It also allows us to showcase the importance of Cornell Votes and celebrate our hard work.”
Cornell Votes also recognized the efforts of specific students, staff, student organizations and community institutions to further democratic participation.
One of the winners was Eveline Ferretti, a Cornell library staff member and public programs and communication administrator, who received the Civic Champion – Staff Member of the Year award for her dedication to increasing voting information and promotion at Mann Library.
Dana Karami ’22, vice president of operations for Cornell Votes, said that the Civic Celebration is a key element in maintaining momentum within the organization.
“[The Civic Celebration] reminds me to be appreciative of everyone who has helped Cornell Votes do its work and pushes me to do even better next year,” Karami said.
Rahul Verma ’24, Cornell Votes’s community engagement department chair, said he feels grateful for all the contributors to civic participation efforts.
“[Cornell Votes] has been able to grow as an organization and community,” Verma said. “The Civic Celebration is a time to thank all of the individuals within Cornell Votes and the community who have made this possible.”