This year’s U.S. national election on November 3, will determine more than just who will be president and vice-president of the country. Over one-third of the Senate and all the members of the House of Representatives are also up for election, and many state and local races and ballot measures will also be decided.
Before then, New York State will be holding its primary elections on June 23. New Yorkers can voters can request an absentee ballot until June 16. Registered New York voters can also vote early (in-person), beginning on June 15. Find a site near you.
Office of Experiential Education Associate Director Luzia Ogureck, M.A., and Assistant Director Leila Dastgheib-Beheshti sat down with The Box to share insight on why it’s important for students—and all citizens—to exercise their right to vote.
Why is it important for college students to cast a ballot on election day?
If college students want to see real change happen in their communities, they need to show up at the ballot box. So far, they have not. According to exit polls, participation by voters under 30 was below 20 percent in all fourteen states that held their primaries on Super Tuesday.
Young voters are historically less likely than their older counterparts to turn out for elections. Studies show the likelihood of voting goes up one percentage point with each year we age. As a result, politicians tend to pay less attention to issues important to Millennials and Generation Z, including student debt, racial and environmental justice, and jobs programs.
And remember, it’s not just the president who’s on the ballot this year. Voters will decide who represents them in Congress and state legislatures, on school boards and city councils, and in many other local offices. In some states, including New York, citizens will vote “yes” or “no” on ballot measures to determine specific state policies.
If first-time voters, how can students register?
If you’re a New York resident, you can register online. Students from other states can go to vote.gov to see if their state allows online registration. You can also download the National Mail Voter Registration Form and mail it to the appropriate state office. Don’t forget to sign the form before mailing!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many primaries have been postponed or moved online. What impact will this have on election day in November?
We don’t know yet how big an impact the pandemic will have on voting in November, so it’s more important than ever to stay informed. The usa.gov website is a great resource to find out details on when, where, and how to vote in this year’s election. Voting by mail may also be an option.
Are recent events, such as peaceful protest for social justice, indicators of a strong young voter turnout in November?
It depends. This is, unquestionably, a pivotal moment in history for young people on many fronts. According to the Brookings Institute, not only will they be “the ones to suffer the greatest economic hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic,” young people also make up “the vast majority of protesters marching against [...] police brutality and racial injustice.”
But whether that will translate into strong voter turnout among young adults may depend on whether the movement maintains its momentum through election day. According to a new study published by Princeton University, “electoral districts with protest activity are more likely to see increased voter turnout at the polls.”
What is the best way for students/voters to learn about the issues at stake in the upcoming elections?
There are a plethora of media outlets, platforms, and resources, including The New York Times, which offers free access to members of the New York Tech community. If you’re interested in a candidate who’s an incumbent in the House or Senate, you can also visit www.congress.gov to get a comprehensive overview of their voting records. And don’t forget to fact-check the candidates’ answers on issues of importance.
Last but not least, be sure to read your emails from New York Tech to help stay informed about remote and on-campus programming, as well as important deadlines related to the 2020 elections.
How is New York Tech encouraging its students to become civically engaged?
Remote and/or in-person programming focused on the 2020 elections will be posted to the events calendar at the beginning of the fall semester. We particularly encourage students, faculty, and staff to volunteer on September 22 for National Voter Registration Day (NVRD). The goal is to make sure everyone has the opportunity to vote. If you are not a citizen, NVRD is a great way to partake in American democracy. Even if you can’t vote yourself, you can help register your peers.
We encourage everyone in our New York Tech community to be civically engaged all year long. Consultants for the Public Good and our service learning initiatives connect you with non-profit organizations for remote and in-person volunteering opportunities. This allows you to start working on people skills essential to the workplace, including cross-cultural competency and social intelligence while serving the communities that surround you.
By Luzia Ogureck