Your Vote Matters: How Young People Can Change General Elections

National Voter Registration Day was yesterday, Sept. 28, but it's not too late to register or check your registration! Deadline is Oct. 8. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Sodergren.

Imagine if one classroom full of people could decide entire election outcomes in New York State. 

This may sound far-fetched, but according to Eric Wood, Hudson Valley Regional Coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group, this is almost exactly what happens time and time again during general elections.

“I’ve seen elections for state offices called by a handful of votes,” Wood said. “One classroom full of students could have changed that election and the policy that was driven because of it afterwards.”

Unfortunately, it’s often seen that college students aren’t likely to contribute to election results. Less than 25% of individuals in our age range, 18 to 24 years old, head to the polls in any given election according to Wood.

We’re also the least likely age group to be registered to vote in the first place. Only 59.8% of 18 to 24 year olds were registered in 2020 compared to 79.1% of 65 to 75 year olds.

This often happens as many students aren’t aware of non-federal elections taking place or they’re left in the dark about voter registration requirements.

For instance, did you know that you have to change your voter registration if you’ve changed your address? This includes if you’ve changed your dorm! You also have to change your voter registration if you’ve changed your name.

New York State has one of the longest gaps between the voter registration deadline and election day, with voters needing at least 25 days in advance to have registered to vote. 

Oftentimes, someone may think they’re properly registered but learn at the polling place that their registration is wrong. That’s why it’s super important to check your voter registration status before the deadline for each election.

The upcoming general election takes place on Nov. 2, but the last day to register is next week on Friday, Oct. 8! 

The fact is that students have the power to decide elections. Never believe that your one vote doesn’t matter.

“When [the number of student votes] increases, that’s when politicians pay attention to things that students care about,” Wood explained. “Without representative democracy, these issues … aren’t getting addressed as urgently as they should be.”

We’ve already begun to see the effect of young voters at a national level.

More young people voted than ever before in the most recent presidential election with 50% of this age group having casted ballots. That’s an 11% jump from 2016.

These votes and especially the votes of young people of color, were key to Trump’s defeat during the 2020 presidential election. 

But we have to keep up this momentum. 

Too often Presidential elections are considered the only important election that we have to vote for. 

But between those four years, many other important elections are happening. Every election ties together to change the way our local governments, our state and our nation works.

Don’t let your voice be left out until a presidential candidate is on the ballot. 

During the upcoming election, New Paltz residents can vote for state supreme court justice, family court judge, county clerk, county comptroller, county legislator, supervisor, superintendent of highways and councilman.

Make sure you flip over your ballot! There’s a few very important referendum questions to vote for on the back.

All NYS residents will be voting for or against proposals that:

1. Change district lines to reflect population majority, which could help to eliminate gerrymandering (the practice of establishing district lines to favor one political party or class).

2. Would make protecting our environment an unchallengeable right in the New York Constitution.

Communities of color and low-income communities are exposed to more levels of pollution than any other population, it’s hoped this change could fight against the effects of environmental racism. 

3. Would allow ten-day advance voter registration which opens the door to same-day voter registration. 

This allows more NYS residents to vote and update their registration at the polling place.

4. Would allow for no excuse absentee voting. Right now, you can only vote absentee if you will not be in your county during Election Day or if you’re unable to vote in-person because you’re sick or due to a physical disability. 

5. Allow the NYC Civil Court to hear claims of up to $50,000. 

In New Paltz specifically, individuals can vote for an increase in funding towards the Elting Memorial Library.

To learn more about what’s on the ballot visit Check your voter registration or register to vote on