Next Tuesday, the village of Geneseo will hold elections for mayor, village justice and the board of trustees, meaning students out on spring break will need to obtain absentee ballots in order to vote.
In 2008, just 732 people turned out to vote for the election. The second district, which is comprised primarily of students, had a turnout rate of 3.7 percent.
Margaret Duff, a democratic candidate for the board of trustees, lost her bid in 2008 by 19 votes. At a question-and-answer session hosted by the College Democrats on March 4, she stressed the importance of student turnout.
"I think students don't realize how important local elections are," said senior Whitney Marris, president of College Democrats. "Hundreds of students are registered locally, but don't vote for elections that really affect their community."
The board of trustees is a representative body comprised of four trustees and the mayor, which decides on public policy for the village.
Sandra Brennan, a sitting trustee seeking re-election, said that as a trustee she was influential in deciding where the Walmart Supercenter would go and what materials would be used to construct it. "We tried to keep the flavor of the village, but also wanted to bring business to the village," she said.
"We want to encourage growth without taking away community," said Duff, who is running alongside Brennan. She said that helping Main Street businesses grow will be a top concern as some businesses are struggling and are very dependent on student patronage.
As rent control and policies are shaped by the board's decisions, their choices especially affect students living off campus. Rent policies were recently changed, placing the legal responsibilities of health and safety on landlords as opposed to tenants.
Tom Bushnell, an independent candidate seeking re-election as village justice, has ruled on over 15,000 cases, mostly traffic violations, but said he decides on surprisingly few cases involving Geneseo students.
"As a whole, Geneseo students are much better behaved than [students] at other colleges," he said. According to Bushnell, many cases where students are involved arise when students from other colleges visit Geneseo.
Bushnell faces Republican challenger Ron Palmer. Brennan and Duff will compete against Republicans James Bennett and Paul Schmied. Richard Hatheway, mayor of Geneseo for 24 years, is a Republican and will run unopposed.
Students may request an absentee ballot from the Geneseo Board of Elections at the Livingston County Offices. Students seeking more information about voting and obtaining a ballot should contact Marris at firstname.lastname@example.org.