Disconnect between students, candidates in local elections

The lack of participation and impact of Geneseo students on local elections has not gone unnoticed by the candidates or the Livingston County Board of Elections. According to Republican Commissioner for the Livingston County Board of Elections Nancy Leven, students register significantly more during years with national elections than during years with local elections. This recurring trend raises questions as to the relationship between students and elections, particularly local ones.

Leven discussed how it is difficult to track student registration wholly.

“We only know how many students on campus are registered,” she said. “Off-campus students are technically village residents.” As a result, it can be hard for candidates to reach out to students as a reliable voter block.

As of right now, there are no overarching initiatives to increase student registration through the Board of Elections, but Leven said that there might be in the future. She noted the success of campaigns such as MTV’s “Rock the Vote,” which increased fall registration in the area.

The Board of Elections mostly concerns itself with maintaining student registration, making sure registered students have the proper available tools to remain registered.

Student outreach is typically done on a candidate-by-candidate basis, based on the focus of the sought position. John Zmich is the Democratic candidate and Independent candidate Zmich held a “Meet and Greet” on Tuesday Oct. 29 at 19 Elm Street in Geneseo. While Zmich invited many students, only one attended.

Livingston County is one of the most conservative counties in the state, and Zmich is facing a Republican incumbent and another Republican candidate, Roberta Irwin and Patti LaVigne, respectively.

Zmich is aware of the potential support from the student body, but hasn’t found success in previous experiences.

“I ran six years ago for Town Board, and I lost, but I campaigned quite a bit on campus,” he said. In spite of his efforts on campus, he did not see many students come out to vote.

Political science major sophomore Brandon Gimpelman, who has taken part in many local elections and campaigns both in Long Island and Geneseo, registered to vote locally in fall 2012.

Gimpelman said that it is not a lack of resources or manpower that prevents candidates from reaching to students but rather a lack of means.

“It’s hard to get out to students, because the nature of residence halls means canvassing is almost impossible,” he said. “You can’t go knock on a residence hall door and expect an answer.”

Political science major junior Zach Perdek said he will not be voting on Nov. 5.

“I’m not registered to vote here; I feel like I’m just passing through. I think a lot of people feel that way, too.”

Local elections for county sheriff and Town Board are Tuesday Nov. 5.