Since 2012, the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), in partnership with Jonathan Krasno, an associate professor of political science, have hosted a voting competition for the living communities on campus with one goal in mind — registering students to vote.
For the third election year in a row, College-in-the-Woods has taken home first place in the Residential Life voting competition hosted by the CCE.
The living community saw a 10 percent increase in registered residents between the start of the semester and the end of the competition, with a final total of 36.7 percent of its residents now registered to vote. Hinman College came in second with a final total of 36.4 percent of its residents registered to vote, an increase of 12 percent according to the preliminary numbers from early on in the competition. Every living community on campus participated, including Hillside Community, which ended the competition with the lowest percentage of registered residents at 23.2 percent.
College-in-the-Woods and Hinman College received a $1,000 and $500 prize, respectively, which can be used in any way the community councils decide on.
The competition started on Sept. 7 with a kickoff event and concluded on Oct. 9, three days before the New York voter registration deadline.
Krasno wrote in an email that the competition came to fruition after a recent graduate of Binghamton University working on a local campaign mentioned the lack of student voters in local elections.
“I just wanted more students to vote because it would make it more likely they’d vote in future elections and students voting in one locale would be an important constituency that its politicians would need to cultivate,” Krasno wrote in an email.
Krasno helps judge the contest by gathering data on on-campus registrants and matching it with the voter file from the Broome County Elections Board, using a common algorithm to account for errors.
According to Krasno, campus voter turnout increased by 35 percent between 2008 and 2012 and increased 55 percent between 2012 and 2016, an increase that he credits partially to the competition.
“The contest isn’t the only thing going on on campus, so I surely don’t think it’s solely responsible for the huge increases in voting since 2008,” Krasno wrote. “I think it’s fair to say that it’s been one of and perhaps even the biggest contributing factor, and it’s certainly the single thing that makes Binghamton different than a lot of other colleges that are working to increase turnout.”
This election year, the CCE has registered over 2,000 students to vote, around the same number of students the CCE registered in 2016. However, the center saw a decrease in on-campus registration from 2016, with 1,200 residential students registered to vote at their on-campus address in 2018 compared to 1,500 in 2016. An increased number of absentee ballot requests made up the difference, with absentee voters on campus rising from 300 in 2016 to 750 in 2018. The rise indicates that on-campus voters are more interested in voting in their home elections this year, rather than in Broome County’s.
Ben DeAngelis, the political engagement coordinator for the CCE, wrote in an email that the competition is meant to encourage students to participate in the voting process.
“We find that this competition helps to raise awareness about student voter rights,” DeAngelis wrote. “Many students do not realize that they can register to vote with their on-campus address while they live here, so this competition helps to spread the word about this important opportunity.”
According to DeAngelis, low voter turnout among college-aged people throughout the country is another reason they continue to host this competition.
“Research shows us that young people who register to vote turn out at similar rates to older adults, so making the registration process easier makes a big difference,” DeAngelis wrote. “This initiative also creates energy and excitement around voting, and creates a space for students to encourage their friends, roommates and others to register to vote.”
Elizabeth Nutig, an ambassador for the Andrew Goodman Foundation at the CCE and an undeclared sophomore, helped with the Hinman College voter drive this semester and said the competition was meant to clarify registration for students who may be confused by the process.
“There is a lot of misinformation about it and confusion, which leads to students not wanting to register or not registering how they want to and then getting confused at the polls,” Nutig said. “That’s why I think it is important to have efforts like this one to try to clarify the process so students can express their political needs at the polls.”
According to Nutig, volunteers encouraged students living on campus to register by tabling all over campus and presenting in classes.
“The goal of the residential hall competition was to get students hype about registering to vote,” Nutig said. “Many on-campus living communities really came together and got so many of their community members to register.”
DeAngelis said it’s important for students to vote because if they don’t, the issues they care about will not be adequately addressed.
“When students vote, they empower themselves to not only choose the people who represent them, but also to shape the policies that will be enacted,” DeAngelis wrote. “Young people make up the majority of the electorate, but because they vote at lower rates the issues that they care about may get less attention.”
Midterm elections will take place on Nov. 6. Registered on-campus voters can cast their ballots from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Mandela Room.