Only eight people voted on campus in the 2014 primary election, according to official data from the Broome County Board of Elections.
The numbers are only slightly better for the general election, with voter turnout for the 2014 midterm election clocking in at around 350 on-campus voters. Last year’s election was similar, with approximately 300 people voting on campus. These numbers are clearly low, especially when considering the 7,000 students who reside on campus.
Though it fared much better, even the contentious 2016 presidential election didn’t feature a huge turnout, with only 2,755 students turning out to vote. Part of the problem is that not everyone is registered. The students who voted in 2016 made up between 63.5 and 73.8 percent of registered student residents. Even the election for the president of the United States couldn’t inspire students to go out and vote.
This particular primary election is important because the midterm elections will be taking place in November. When President Donald Trump was first elected in 2016, those who were unhappy with his victory stressed the importance of these midterms. Those who are in favor of his presidency can show their support by voting, while people who want to see a change at the national level must recognize the necessity of these local elections and vote as well.
Primaries can be the only opportunity voters have to select a candidate that they may agree with wholeheartedly. When their preferred candidate does not make it to the general election, many complain about having to choose the lesser of two evils. Those who vote in the primary elections have a better chance of seeing the person they support later in the fall. People who don’t vote should keep in mind that they shouldn’t complain if they don’t see their preferred candidate on the ballot in November.
Voting in the primaries also helps to determine the path forward for one’s party. The results inform the party’s candidates of how their base feels on many prominent issues. The parties will use this data to determine their trajectories in the upcoming presidential elections as well. There are large divides in both the Republican party — as to whether or not party members should endorse Trump — and Democratic party, regarding how progressive it ought to be, and voting in the primary election could help steer the parties in one’s preferred direction.
Some of the reasons that the primary elections get such abysmal turnout have more to do with the laws surrounding voting than each individual’s personal motivation to vote. It is difficult for out-of-state students or students who are registered in their hometown, rather than where they go to school, to get absentee ballots. In New York, an application for an absentee ballot or to change the address on one’s absentee ballot must be filed at least 25 days before the election. Anyone who isn’t prioritizing the election a full month early will be out of luck on election day. Additionally, those who don’t send in their absentee ballot more than a few days before election day feel as if their votes don’t count, because the elections are already called before their ballot is even received.
Moreover, primaries are closed in New York, meaning that people can only vote in the primary for the party for which they are registered. Many people don’t register for a party, and thus cannot vote in any primary.
Eight voters shouldn’t be a difficult statistic to beat, but it will not happen unless students understand how imperative the primary elections are. Every vote counts, but only if it is cast in the first place. Students must prioritize their participation in governmental affairs, and voting in the primary election on Sept. 13 is the first step.