When it comes to voting, students face real challenges. They are new to the process and therefore must learn the ropes – how, where and when to register; they tend to move around frequently making it tricky to find them and determine their voting districts; they are sometimes given misleading or patently false information such as being told that they cannot legally register to vote where they go to school; they are often consumed with class work or simply do not believe their vote makes a difference and therefore choose not to vote at all.
The Office of Student Activities, spearheaded by the efforts of the new Assistant Director of Student Activities Megan Fraino, wanted to connect students to the voting process. According to Ms. Fraino, “The best way we know how to empower students is to bring them face to face with their political leaders, the folks we elected to make important decisions for our community.” She organized for students to meet with several local politicians through their CMSV101 class, a semester long course designed to introduce freshman to college life. Spanning two days in September, crowded into a classroom in the Administration building, Assemblyman Mike Spano of the 93rd Assembly District in Westchester County, NY State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins of the 25th Senate District, and Senator Jeff Klein of the 34th Senate District all took turns giving presentations and answering questions.
“Voting is the one thing you can do to affect change,” emphasized Mike Spano, “your vote counts. Always know you can find a way to vote.” He urged students to run for public office if they were dedicated to creating change. “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you’re too young,” he advised.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins stressed how not voting can negatively affect the outcome of a race. She used as an example her first election campaign in 2004 when she ran for State Senator. After a very tight race, she was exasperated to discover that she had lost by a mere 18 votes. That loss underscored for her how crucial every vote is and how every American needs to be a part of the process. “The number was significant because it reminded (me) that we need to appeal to that age (18 to 24 year olds),” she said.
“Government is what you create when you vote,” Stewart-Cousins said. “(It is) a responsibility you should never walk away from.”
Students were greatly interested in the logistical details of voting such as voter deadlines and how to request an absentee ballot. CICU, as part of their student voter registration drive, made available to every Mount student a voter registration tool kit which contains all the needed forms and information. Students were instructed to pick up the documents at the Student Activities Office.
Taking a cue from organizations such as MTV’s Rock the Vote, which appeals to disenfranchised students and lets them know that their vote matters, the College created “The Mount Rocks the Vote” web page, a new non-partisan Campus Voter Registration Project, which connects students on Facebook. “The aim is to engage students in a discussion on the issues and the candidates’ positions while providing the logistics of where, when, why and how to vote,” said Ms. Fraino.