With the presidential election coming up and the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) is working to help students register to vote using a hybrid model.
In addition to in-person walk-in appointments at its office and on-campus tabling, the CCE is offering virtual programs including class presentations, training sessions for student organizations and voting information sessions. The CCE has also moved the on-campus polling place to the Events Center to allow for social distancing.
On Sept. 22, National Voter Registration Day, the CCE will be tabling on the Spine and holding a virtual information session. Further information for this can be found on B-Engaged.
As of now, the CCE has received a total of 635 voter registration and absentee ballot request forms, and said that many other students have done this online. Allison Handy Twang, associate director of the CCE, said that it is particularly important that students be informed due to the changes in voting that are going on due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All voters, but young voters in particular, are facing more confusion and uncertainty about the voting process,” Twang wrote in an email. “While keeping up with the changes to [New York] voting procedures may be difficult, the good news is that these changes are giving voters more options to cast their ballot this November.”
New York state voters can now request an absentee ballot using the temporary illness excuse, request their ballot online and have an extra day to return the ballot. Twang added that it is important for students to plan ahead this year, especially regarding absentee voting.
“While the official deadline to request an absentee ballot in [New York] is Oct. 27, [United States Postal Service (USPS)] has indicated that they cannot guarantee timely delivery of ballots requested this late,” Twang wrote. “If students think they want to vote absentee, they should submit the request now, watch their mailbox for the ballot and return the ballot right away.”
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been under attack because he implemented stricter schedules for mail trucks, delaying mail significantly while disallowing extra trips. The delays have earned criticism from some across the country, who say DeJoy is attempting to suppress voting through his actions. As a result, some organizations on campus are encouraging early voting.
Twang also encouraged students who want to vote in person to think about early voting. Broome County voters can vote at any of three early voting centers between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1 located at the Broome County Public Library, Oakdale Mall and the George F. Johnson Memorial Library.
Young poll workers are being sought out for this election due to COVID-19 being especially compromising for older folks. Individuals can apply to be poll workers for $11 per hour on election days here.
Brooke Bokal, a senior majoring in chemistry, said she plans to vote early, in part because she worries about mail-in voting.
“I’m a little bit wary of voting by mail this semester for two reasons: first, because of the pandemic, a lot more people will pick that option than normally would, and I would be a little bit scared of that extra strain on the system in the best of times; second, this is not the best of times for the USPS,” Bokal said. “Our president has defunded the postal system in direct hopes of making it harder to vote in the safest way possible. It might sound like a conspiracy theory, but he openly admits this. I will be voting off campus and in person because I want my vote to be counted, and I will be voting early in the hopes of avoiding any crowds and more effectively social distancing.”
Despite the challenges presented this year, Jacob Bouffard, a senior majoring in anthropology, believes it is still important to vote.
“I think it is critical we vote, even with all the fear surrounding mail-in votes,” Bouffard said. “I feel nervous I won’t make a difference but will vote anyway.”
Samarra Graiser, a senior majoring in physics, expressed worry about the election.
“I am very nervous for this election,” Graiser said. “Despite us, the young generation being the seemingly most aware and outraged, we were the population with some of the poorest numbers at the polls. Hopefully, this year’s election is different given there are so many platforms making it easy to register to vote by mail because I will not be in my hometown as I hope others, especially college students, will do as well.”
Students can make a visit to the CCE in UU-137 for help with absentee ballots, registering to vote, submitting forms and asking questions. Oct. 9 is the deadline to postmark a voter registration form while Nov. 2 is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot in person only.