To increase voter registration and turnouts of students in the 2018 Midterm Elections, the Civic Engagement Committee is hosting a series of events across campus to help educate students and assist them in registering to vote.
“We’re basically doing anything we can just to get people out to the polls,” Luke Ahearn, junior political science major and vice president for the Student Government Association (SGA) said. “The intention is to bring Quinnipiac students above the national average of student voters.”
The committee will be tabling in the Student Center in the Mount Carmel campus and North Haven campus Oct. 1, 3 and 10 to help students register to vote.
[media-credit name=”GRAPHIC BY CHRISTINA POPIK” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]The committee, including Residence Hall Directors, College Republicans, QU Democrats, Director of Community Service, First Year Seminar (FYS) leaders, professors in political science and media studies, the Director of Campus Life for Sorority and Fraternity Life, as well as Student Government members have already registered 50 students to vote and anticipates that number to grow over the course of the semester.
“I do intend to vote even though it’s really annoying being at college,” Brianna Capone, senior public relations major said. “I know that the midterm elections are really important in terms of Trump getting re-elected in 2020, so that’s why people are really nervous about them.”
To assist students in the voting process, the committee intends to bus students to the polls from Quinnipiac come election day. Although not all Quinnipiac students are Connecticut residents, Ahearn assures that being a student at the school permits you to vote in the state of Connecticut.
“It’s a little tricky in the town of Hamden,” Ahearn said. “You’re eligible to vote as a Connecticut resident, but you wouldn’t be eligible to vote in your hometown anymore if you register at QU. Then you’d be voting for the Connecticut governor, the Connecticut senators and that kind of stuff.”
In past elections, students have been encouraged to vote via absentee ballot through the mail from their respective hometowns. Despite the fact that it still remains an option for the coming elections, it has statistically been proven a less effective method, Ahearn said.
“It’s a lot less likely for a student to get an absentee ballot even if that’s their plan and they have the intent to vote,” Ahearn said. “Studies have shown that you don’t actually go home and vote or get an absentee ballot so that’s why we’re really pushing that students register at Quinnipiac.”
This will allow students to vote on the same ballot as Hamden residents for the Connecticut state candidates.
The committee came together in early August to draft up the Civic Engagement Action Plan for 2018. The purpose of the initiative is to encourage students to get involved in the democratic process while educating themselves on important issues and fulfilling civic responsibilities beyond political lines, according to the plan.
The group, ALL IN Campus Challenge, a program that rewards college campuses for their civic engagement efforts, reached out to the committee. The program looks at the study, National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) by Tufts University.
NSLVE offers colleges and universities an opportunity to learn student registration, voting rates, a closer examination of the campus climate for political learning and engagement and correlations between specific student learning experiences and voting, according to Tuft’s University website.
The civic engagement committee’s goals are:
• Have 25 percent of students vote on Election Day (7 percent higher than 2014 NSLVE average)
• Have 75 percent of students registered to vote (13 percent higher than 2014 NSLVE average)
• Be physically responsible for getting 100 students to polling locations
• Be physically responsible for registering 200 students to vote
Although the engagement committee’s goal is to encourage students to vote by increasing the turnout, it also wants to make sure that those who are voting are informed of their options.
“I definitely feel that students are not informed enough,” Ahearn said. “I think there are students who do know a great deal about what these elections hold but if you look at the data you have less than half of the students that voted in the presidential elections that will be voting in the midterm elections. That in itself shows that students don’t realize how much effect their vote has.”
Along with the midterm elections affecting the larger scale of politics and presidency, there are other controversial topics which students have voiced concern for.
“There’s a lot of key, big issues coming up,” Ahearn said. “You have marijuana, gun control and these are things that students especially feel passionate about, that students don’t realize how much their vote makes a difference, especially in the midterm election, especially compared to the presidential election.”
The Director of Campus Life for Fraternity and Sorority Life, Katherine Pezzella and Ahearn, both chairs in the committee, have outsourced to professors Scott McLean and Sean Duffy of the political science department to arrange a sort of debate for students to visually see and understand local candidates views.
Committee members plan to reach out to First Year Seminar (FYS) courses to educate students on how to register. For freshmen, this is most students first experience being able to vote in any election.
“I have to vote for my law class, so I sort of know things about the potential candidates,” Anna Ellen, freshmen legal studies and sociology major said. “Not really in depth though.”
For those who didn’t chose to vote in the past election, the midterm elections serve as an opportunity to correct past mistakes.
“I think a lot of people learned their lesson of the importance of voting in the election in 2016,” Capone said. “I’m definitely going to make an effort to vote this time because I didn’t unfortunately in 2016.”
To further increase voter registration, and incentivize the process, SGA will be giving out five $20 gift cards, which will be randomly selected from QU students that have turned Voter Registration Forms in to the Office of Campus Life. If students fill out the attached form, it can be dropped off at the reception desk of the Office of Campus Life in the Student Center room 202.
In the weeks to come before the voting date arrives, the Civic Engagement Committee encourages students to learn more about their political climate and get involved in the privileged process of voting that affects their everyday lives.
“If you don’t like some of the stuff that’s happening within the state of Connecticut or some of the taxes you have to pay for college, there’s only one way you have the right to complain about it,” Ahearn said. “And that’s to actually go out there and cast your vote and make your voice heard.”