SUNY New Paltz Rocks the Vote

On Tuesday Oct. 28, from 1 to 5 p.m., the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) hosted The Rock The Vote Concert on the SUB concourse to educate students on the importance of voting.

The event was a part of the nationwide Get Out The Vote drive. Students were educated about ballot initiatives and the major elections coming up. Restaurants in town, such as Asian Fusion and Rock Da Pasta, donated free food, live music played throughout the event and student participants entered a raffle to win a variety of gift cards.

James Auer, a fourth year Political Science major, NYPIRG intern and voter mobilization project leader coordinated the event. From Aug. 25 until Oct. 10, Auer and others involved in the voter mobilization project could be seen around campus registering students to vote. 809 people registered with them.

This program took three and a half weeks to plan. Auer said that this was the first NYPIRG event that he has ever coordinated and he a had a team of three to four student volunteers who helped him.

According to Auer, the first two months of the semester were dedicated to registering student voters, and now it was time to educate these voters.

“We are the future,” Auer said.

At the event, posters on display educated students on the various candidates in the up and coming elections such as the Congressional race, the Gubernatorial race and even state and local races. NYPIRG is nonpartisan and an equal amount of information on all of the candidates and their political parties was presented.

Chapter President Peter Brown of the United University Professions (UUP), the union for all faculty on campus, spoke at the event. According to Brown, UUP has been co-sponsoring the Rock the Vote Campaign at New Paltz for years.

“Why do you need an old fart like me to tell you that voting is important?” Brown said.

NYPIRG is the largest 501 (c) (4), nonprofit, organization in the state. There are 207 college campus chapters and it is New York’s largest student-directed research and activism group. NYPIRG has seven main areas of concern: environmental protection, consumer rights, higher education, government reform, voter registration, mass transit and public health.

“We are an activist training camp,” Auer said.

Eric Wood, SUNY New Paltz Project Coordinator for NYPIRG,  helped with the planning and promotion for this event.

According to Wood it is especially critical that we get elected officials who will listen to the student voice and the student needs, such as financial aid and tuition rates. Wood also said that students need to know the technicalities involved with voting, such as where they can go to vote on Election Day, Nov. 4.

Allee Surgeary, a second year journalism and history major, attended the event. Surgeary was an intern for the Sean Eldridge Campaign and according to her, it is very hard to get students voting. However, Surgeary believed that the event was a fun way to educate students about their right to vote.

“Young people should be aware of what is going on around them,” Surgeary said.