The Geneseo voter turnout for the local elections held on Tuesday Nov. 5 was lower than previous midterm and presidential elections, despite substantial efforts made by organizations on campus to try and increase turnout.
In the weeks leading up the election, the Andrew Goodman Foundation, the College Democrats and the College Republicans encouraged student voting efforts.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation was created in memory of Andrew Goodman and two other civil rights workers who had been working to register African Americans to vote through Freedom summer, a voter registration project, according to their website.
The foundation launched ‘Vote Everywhere’ in 2014 to encourage voting on college campuses. Andrew Goodman Ambassador junior Rachel Wallisky explained the mission of the new movement.
“Andrew Goodman is a non-partisan group. We don’t care how you identify with your political party, what kind of candidates you support,” Wallisky said. “We just want to make sure you get out to vote and we’re looking to make sure every student’s voice gets heard, regardless of political affiliation.”
Wallisky said the Andrew Goodman Foundation took different actions this semester in efforts to motivate students to vote. One particular effort was the deliberative dialogue for National Voter Registration Day that celebrated the centennial of the 19th amendment.
The foundation also offers the Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development as a resource for students to go ask questions and it runs a website where students can find information on candidates and voting requirements, according to Wallisky.
Vice President of College Democrats junior Robbie Economou said that in conjunction with the Andrew Goodman Foundation, the organization helped register student voters and ran various programs to motivate students to vote.
“There was a ‘Get Out the Vote’ rally last weekend with Nate McMurray that our president Lara Mangino helped to coordinate. It was really cool to have Nate McMurray come,” Economou said. “We’ve also had some of the candidates come to our meetings, especially the Democrats, to get students knowledgeable about the election and get them interested in voting.”
President of College Republicans Matthew Phelan communicated extensively with members by sending reminders and instructions about voting. The College Republicans also worked with the Andrew Goodman Foundation and the Town Boards to run tables in the unions, according to Phelan.
“We also had the Republican judge candidates come in,” Phelan said. “They gave the spiel on what they were running on and that kind of stuff. We also encouraged the members to go to the Democrats as well because they hosted the Democratic candidates, [so they can] hear everyone.”Despite the expansive organized events on behalf of student organizations, only 8.8 percent of the registered voters in District 5—or the on-campus college voters—went to vote this election, according to Phelan. The number is substantially lower than the 82 percent turnout for the presidential election in 2016.
Phelan said in order to increase voter turnout, the college should increase the amount of efforts made to entice students to vote.
“Registration wise, we’ve exploded in recent years,” Phelan said. “We are definitely able to get people involved with the voting process when we put our minds and resources to it.”
Economou attributed “apathetic” students to the nonexistent connection between the college campus and the Geneseo community.
“Students don’t really feel like they’re part of the community while they’re here,” Economou said. “I don’t blame the individual candidates for that. I think that they do their best to come to the school and try to talk students. I personally don’t feel a part of the local community and I think that’s more of a problem with the college than the students’ fault … I think it’s the responsibility of the school to make students feel at home here more.”
Wallisky said she feels it is important for students to make larger efforts to join the Geneseo community outside of campus.
“We live here for four years of our lives—give or take a semester or two—and I think that making sure there’s an advocate on a local level for students is super important,” Wallisky said. “If students want to make their voice heard it is absolutely possible that we can make a huge impact on the results of these elections.”
Phelan emphasized the same point about the impact students can have on elections.
“Local elections are a lot smaller so your votes weight simply will matter more, especially in a place like Geneseo—where it is a small area,” Phelan said. “You can influence a local leader, which will have a lot more weight in influencing a congressman than your vote influencing the congressman themselves.”
Economou said he encourages students to register to vote by Feb. 14, 2020 to vote in the upcoming spring election.
“I think students’ interests are followed out when they vote regardless of party, and to make that happen students should vote,” Economou said.