The focus of the Hawk the Vote event on Wednesday, Oct. 24 was designed for college students to have a grasp on which candidates are running and how to vote in the midterm election this November.
“Historically, New Paltz has had good voter engagement for the presidential election. But the last midterm election had less than 15 percent of voters on campus,” said NYPIRG Coordinator Eric Wood.
According to the National Study of Learning Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), for the 2016 president elections, 18-21 year-olds in New Paltz had a 50.8 percent voting rate as compared to 83.1 percent for 50-year-olds and up. Meanwhile, for the 2014 midterm elections, only 9.4 percent of 18-21-year-olds voted, while 58.2 percent of 50-year-olds and up voted.
Mayor Tim Rogers spoke about the pattern of voting in Ulster County. He said the median age for the primary election in June was 65-years-old. Rogers noticed that only people who vote regularly are campaigned to the most.
“If you don’t vote when you are younger, you don’t end up on that list,” Rogers said. “Vote now when you’re young, and you will be campaigned to.”
NYPIRG’s goal is to help educate students about what candidates are running in the district, how to fill out a sample ballot, register for absentee ballots and inform students about poll sites.
Student clubs and organizations including: Campus Sustainability Office, Student Association, Resisterhood, Democracy Matters, Food & Water Action, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Oxfam, Climate Action Club, College Democrats, Women’s Rugby and Hippies for Hope tabled at the event, and shared why voter education is important on a college campus.
Democracy Matters gave out registration information, spoke of what the local candidates are campaigning for, and got people excited to vote.
“[Voting in the midterm election] gives you more of a say, and it has a lot to do with the general election,” said fourth-year communication disorder major and member of Democracy Matters Mary Kate Durkin. “It’s good to vote, but good to be informed too.”
Oxfam stressed the importance of being informed and its missions as a club to spread awareness about petitions, fundraising for undocumented workers, hurricane relief and humanitarian aid.
“As consumers we have a voice. People higher up try to convince us that we don’t,” said fourth-year art education major and Oxfam member Emily Feigelman. “We have to reclaim that power.”
Kevin Freeman from New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV) reminded students that politics can be overwhelming when looking at all the entitenties. He said to start with one issue that was important and to get involved that way. NYAGV also has programs and workshops that inform the community about issues related to gun violence. Freeman handed out pledges to vote for gun safety, which included information on the deadlines to vote.
“I encourage every student to be civilly engaged by participating on election day. If students are unsure about who is on the ballot or what their platforms are, visit sunyvotes.civicengine.com to preview your ballot and the candidates,” said Director of Student Activites and Union Services Mike Patterson. “Please also make sure to verify your polling location at elections.ny.gov. Go vote, encourage your friends to vote and help make a difference. Every vote counts.”
Tin Horn Uprising Band and the Resisterhood Choir sang about voting and exercising the right to vote. The groups sang about themes of freedom, singing loudly and walking proudly.
On Election Day, which is Nov. 6, students registered to vote in New Paltz can visit the Student Union Building to cast their vote. Students who voted via absentee ballot can also visit the SUB to pick up an “I Voted” sticker. If you are not registered to vote in New Paltz and missed the deadline to receive an absentee ballot, students can stop by the SUB to pick up a provisional ballot.
“Until young people start voting, no political party will pay attention to their needs,” Wood said.