Opinion

Guest Column: There should be greater turnout among Binghamton students in local elections

There's no good reason we shouldn't have 100 percent student participation; initiatives like TurboVote will help

Before you do anything today ask yourself, “How hard would it be to get every single Binghamton University student to vote in the midterm elections?”

It would likely depend on who you ask, but a political science major (a developing professional cynic of democratic process informed by centuries of historical evidence) would say that is impossible. There is not one shred of likelihood that the entirety of a college campus, particularly one the size of BU, would ever turn out close to 100 percent in any election, no matter how important. Why is this? What constrains us from doing something that should be an ingrained reflex by the time we are in our 20s?

There are a lot of reasons, good reasons, which deserve a detailed explanation. But what those reasons amount to can be boiled down to one simple observable fact:

Voting is hard.

That’s not a nice thing to say, particularly because it is inherently condescending to us college students. We, as products of the New York state education system, got a state-mandated education in civic engagement that started in elementary school and ended (I may be taking a bit of liberty here) with AP U.S. Government in the 12th grade. What other defense can we claim, if not for voting being difficult? That it doesn’t concern us? That it doesn’t matter? That we prefer anarchy?

I have tried for the past month and a half to bring a program to campus called TurboVote, which makes it easier, if only a little bit, to vote. The program provides text and email reminders when elections are coming up, a brief overview of candidates on its website and prepaid and pre-stamped envelopes containing the proper forms when you need to re-register or vote absentee. It has been met with mixed support from student groups and administrators whom I have spoken to about it. I can understand their reservations; there is potential for issues with redundancy and there are “we already do voter registration well enough” arguments, but I do not empathize. There are a few things that I want accomplished at BU, which take a lot of work and support to do. For instance, I want a Binghamton University student on the City Council. I want near 100 percent turnout for major political elections. I want political candidates for mayor, state and federal assembly to campaign here to us. And perhaps most audaciously, I want for you to give a shit about all of that. These ideas, through the scope of history and logic, are unlikely and foolish, but taken as pure concepts, make sense to me on a spiritual level better than any lecture in a political science class ever did.

As of the printing of this article there are 214 days until the midterm elections. There is a lot to be done in the deceptively short amount of time before they arrive. If you feel like getting involved, find these groups on B-Engaged: New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG); College Democrats, Republicans or Libertarians; the Center for Civic Engagement; or email me at Ahenry7@binghamton.edu and take a bit of time to revolutionize with the many students on campus who share these stupid, bold and fantastic ideas.

Andrew Henry is a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law.

Views expressed in the opinion pages represent the opinions of the columnists.