NYPIRG Helps Raise Voter Registration Numbers

New York Public Interest Research Group’s (NYPIRG) chapter at SUNY New Paltz has encouraged students to become interested and involved in areas concerning voter mobilization.

NYPIRG is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, student-directed and run political empowerment group that has been organizing students at SUNY New Paltz since 1979.

Since the beginning of the semester, NYPIRG has registered 1400 students, 167 of those on Sept. 25 (National Voter Registration Day).  By the voting registration deadline, they hope to register over 1,500 students.

Eric Wood, NYPIRG project coordinator said NYPIRG’s Voter Awareness Program has three main goals: registration, education and mobilization. In an effort to increase voting mobilization, NYPIRG has made a commitment to be present on campus.

In hopes of reaching its 1,500 student goal by the voter registration deadline on Oct. 12, NYPIRG has been conducting a campus-wide registration blitz.

On Oct. 9, 10, and 11, NYPIRG set up tables in the student union (SU), residence halls, and in the lecture center (LC). They are also hosting a Rock the Vote concert in Hasbrouck Quad to raise awareness about the importance of voting and voter registration later this semester.

In addition, NYPIRG will be sponsoring the third and final presidential debate regarding foreign policy on Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. viewing in LC 100. Wood said, this will help students make more educated decisions on which candidates best represent them when they go to vote.

“On Election Day, NYPIRG will be directing students to the polls and letting them know where and when they can vote through class announcements, phone calls, postering and flyering,” Wood said.

Fourth-year graphic design major Rebecca Benedict said because NYPIRG sets themselves up in front of the SU and Humanities, where there is a lot of student traffic, they appear to be both easily accessible and very approachable.

“They are very present on campus and have been since the start of the semester, bringing the upcoming election to everyone’s attention,” Benedict said. “It’s cool to see students that actually care about watching and discussing the debates and are bringing awareness to voting and our role in the election.”

In the past few national elections, less than 25 percent of the 18 to 24 year old demographic attended the polls on Election Day. Wood said if that number was closer to 50 percent, it could decide the turnout of the election.

Wood said the reason politicians keep raising the cost of tuition and depleting our financial packages is because they are well aware of how low student turnout is.

“When students vote, politicians will cater to legislation that benefits them,” he said.

Similarly, Benedict said student voting is important because of the issues that affect us, including paying for school, paying back student loans and health care.  We make up a population that needs to be heard, she said.

In addition to voting, students who wish to get involved on a volunteer basis and have their voices heard have the opportunity to join

NYPIRG member Kenny Satterlee said the organization has given him an outlet to put into action the things about the world he wants to change.

“It’s empowering to do things that have a real impact,” Satterlee said.

Satterlee said NYPIRG has helped him learn a lot of different aspects of the political system students don’t normally look into. He said it has given him the tools to become a successful political activist and has increased his level of political awareness overall.

Wood said NYPIRG also makes students experts in grassroots organizing and campaign strategy, which provides them with the necessary tools to create the social change that they wish to see on their campus and in their local and global community.

The unique part of the NYPIRG chapter of SUNY New Paltz is the number of students involved in social justice campaigns, and the enthusiasm and dedication that they have, Wood said.

“It is great to see so many students socially aware and determined to spread that awareness to their peers,” Wood said. “The passion that comes from these students is unparalleled.”