Two organizations recently recognized Geneseo as one of 83 nationwide “Voter-Friendly Campuses.” The designation comes after the 2016 presidential election and reflects the first batch of designated Voter-Friendly Campuses.
Campus Vote Project and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators were the two nonpartisan organizations who instituted the title. The application process entailed schools providing a detailed plan on how they aimed to increase student voter registration and increase the number of students voting. About 96 or 97 schools reached the final point of the qualification process before the organizations selected the best 83, according to a phone interview with CVP National Director Mike Burns.
“We wanted to do no more than 100 institutions the first time around,” Burns said. “We started taking statements of interest from schools in February 2016 and then asked them some initial questions. The major steps of the work were to get a major point of contact at the institution to form a committee and make the other parts of campus represented if they were interested.”
In order to achieve higher voter engagement, Geneseo established the Taskforce on Voter Registration and Engagement. Communication major junior Sarah Jane Phillips worked with Associate Dean of Leadership and Service Thomas Matthews and Katelyn Tzavelis ’16 as the main leaders of the Taskforce. Phillips described the main efforts that the Taskforce took to register more students to vote.
“Me and Tzavelis personally went through all the voter registration forms and were physically there registering voters,” she said. “If we got the numbers, we knew they would put a polling place on campus. We also worked pretty hard to make voters aware of who they were voting for, especially for local elections.”
In addition, the Taskforce also set up tables during the first day of orientation to register incoming students to vote. Psychology and business administration double major senior Robert Stanger, who is also a member of the Taskforce, is proud of the organization’s efforts in obtaining a campus polling location.
“I think getting an on-campus polling place in Merritt was pretty huge,” Stanger said. “We had to get 1,200 students to register to get that to happen.”
Phillips emphasized the importance in making Geneseo an easier place for students to vote.
“There are a lot of elections in Livingston County that go on that can be pretty detrimental to the experience that college students have here,” she said. “So I think it’s really important that students know who they’re voting for because it can affect how much their rent is, where they can live, what’s going on in the town.”
Burns additionally detailed some of the shared aspects of the schools that CVP and NASPA recognized.
“One of the things that stuck out to us is that campuses that had really strong committees had really strong plans,” he said. “Public four-year colleges were probably the most predominant campuses represented.”
Stanger and Phillips both spoke about how the Taskforce will be concerned with sustaining Geneseo’s voter-friendly status going forward. Phillips specifically noted that if students don’t vote, the polling place could be moved off-campus again.
“We definitely have a polling site on campus for the next elections, even up to 2020, but it could always be taken away if we don’t get the numbers to turn up,” she said. “During these next couple of local or state election years, we need to make sure that students are still turning up.”