Students Prepare for Upcoming Elections

Photo courtesy flickr

As Election Day approaches, students at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz are among many New Yorkers who are thinking about which candidates to vote for in the gubernatorial and U.S. senatorial races.

With recent budget cuts to education among many other financial troubles that currently plague the State of New York, some SUNY New Paltz students have a lot on their minds as they prepare to vote on Nov. 2.

In the two U.S. senatorial races New Yorkers will vote in, both Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are enjoying leads in the post-primary polls, recent Rasmussen Reports said. Schumer, who seeks reelection to the seat he has held for over a decade as New York’s senior senator, maintains a double-digit lead in the polls against Republican challenger Jay Townsend. Gillibrand, who inherited her seat from Hillary Clinton after Clinton was appointed as secretary of state, has a 10-point lead over Joseph DioGuardi, the Republican nominee who seeks to take Gillibrand’s seat in this special election.

For a junior senator, Gillibrand is maintaining a strong campaign and lead in an election year with such strong anti-incumbent feelings amongst American voters.

Student Senator Samantha Kossin feels Gillibrand has done well enough in her short time as U.S. senator that voters will reward her with another term.

“I feel that there was an easy transition between Sen. Clinton and Sen Gillibrand,” said Kossin. “She’s only been senator for about two years now, and New York has seen enough that they’re willing to give her a second chance.”

The bid for New York’s governor has drawn even more attention for the scompetitiveness between New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Republican challenger Carl Paladino.

Paladino, who has suffered from media scrutiny regarding inappropriate e-mails he had sent, is still a formidable contender against Cuomo, who was considered to be a candidate who would easily win. Although Cuomo leads with 54 percent of the polls, Rasmussen Reports said, Paladino has surprised many voters with 38 percent of the polls.

When asked about how Gov. David Paterson’s performance will impact their votes, SUNY New Paltz students echoed two main issues they had with the outgoing governor: the budget cuts made to education and Paterson’s proposal of the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA).

Ryan Long, project coordinator for New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), said that NYPIRG opposed PHEEIA and the series of budget cuts to education in New York endured and that he hoped for a higher priority on education from the future governor.

“I would love to see him or her work on higher education and keep it as affordable as possible,” said Long, who also cited cleaning the environment as another one of NYPIRG’s hopes for the incoming governor.

However, students echoed how important voting is for their age group.

“Everyone complains about tuition going up, but I feel like a lot of people aren’t connecting the fact that you have to do something that you can control,” said Eve Stern, executive vice president of the Student Association. “It’s this whole chicken and egg cycle. We’re not voting, so [politicians are] not going to care about students.”

NYPIRG has been taking on an initiative to encourage students to register to vote, said Long, who has visited a number of classes himself.

“We want to encourage students to vote because in order to see change in your community, you have to enact it,” Long said. “So, by voting, that’s the first step in enacting change within your community.”