Last week, students held a demonstration in front of the Broome County Board of Elections (BOE) at the Edwin L. Craw Ford County Office Building on Hawley Street.
Wednesday afternoon, seven members of Binghamton University’s chapter of Generation Vote stood in front of the BOE, several holding signs that read “Just democracy for all.” The event was inspired by students’ discontent with the accessibility of voting on campus in recent elections.
Generation Vote is a progressive advocacy movement that originated at BU in 2017. As part of the organization’s week of action, members have been engaging in demonstrations at local election offices in New York, Texas and Florida, advocating for youth voting rights.
Dominic Bossey, Generation Vote team leader and a junior double-majoring in political science and human development, described challenges students faced when trying to vote early, with all early voting polling locations being off campus.
“Broome County, last year in 2020, told the campus that we couldn’t have an early polling site because they didn’t have the resources for it and they, a short time after that, made another polling site, even though they told us they didn’t have resources for a fourth polling site,” Bossey said. ”That’s something that annoyed me and none of the early polling sites were easily accessible to kids on campus without cars, so it just made it harder to vote.”
Bossey also said the demonstration was motivated by the failure of Statewide Ballot Proposals three and four in Broome County, which would have eased voting eligibility by eliminating the 10-day advance voter registration requirement and authorizing no-excuse ballot voting.
Brendan Cushing, Generation Vote program manager and former team leader of Generation Vote at the University at Albany, described the variety in the districts in which demonstrations were held.
“As a part of these actions there’s a certain dichotomy to it where we are hosting actions outside of local elections administration offices that we feel we need to hold accountable, [where] they could probably do better to increase access of the ballot to people, but also hosting actions outside of offices within which the local administrators have done a great job thus far, with regard to working with young people on their counties or in the region to make it easier for them to vote,” Cushing said.
Last year, a Generation Vote team leader organized a petition calling for the cancellation of classes on Election Day. Some attendees said they had difficulties voting due to constraints in their schedules.
Another attendee, Gillian van der Have, a junior double-majoring in political science and history, described her experience attempting to vote early last year. Van der Have said she was only able to vote early due to having a car and one of her classes being canceled, as many locations were not accessible by bus.
“I’ve been a member of Generation Vote since my freshman year, and I just think it’s really important that we remind Broome County that there are 17,000 people living at the University who have a right to vote here,” Van der Have said.
While Cushing said the University has expressed a willingness to work with students in giving Election Day as an academic holiday, he called upon the University and local officials to take heed of such demonstrations.
“I would ask of the University but also of the Broome County Board of Elections, of both parties to work together,” Cushing said. “Please work together and hear us, see us out here right now, that we want an early voting location, and we want to work with our local election administration officials to see what could be done to make it easier for young people to vote, and for us to exercise our right to vote.”