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Getting ready to “Brock the vote” 

Photo Credit: Google open source
Photo Credit: Google open source

Why do college students abstain from voting? With the 2022 midterms looming on the horizon, SUNY Brockport attempts to address this question with a series of initiatives designed to get students into voting booths this November. The Program is run through the SUNY Brockport Student Union, Leadership and Activities (SULA) Department. 

“We are thrilled to announce that there will be a polling place for the Brockport community located on campus” Lourens Kapp, the Graduate Assistant for SULA’s Democratic Engagement program, said. “Those who are registered to vote in Brockport will be able to use the on-campus voting site located at Tuttle South on Nov. 8. Doors open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. Students can stop by before, in between, or after classes and cast their ballots. Additionally, SULA is able to help students register and send their mail-in or absentee ballots.” 

 The Census Department stated in the 2020 election survey that “the percentage was lowest among those ages 18 to 24 at 51.4%. Overall, voter turnout increased as age increased.” College students, who mostly fall in the lowest percentile, often face the most barriers trying to vote in comparison to older individuals who have had time to make voting a habit.  

The Democratic Engagement Action Plan (DEAP) was developed by Brockport to help counter these difficulties. Their goal is “to enhance existing voter engagement opportunities that provide ballot access and encourage students to get out to vote, including recruiting student poll workers, reminders about absentee voting and shuttles to polling sites.”  

Many Brockport students feel lost. “I don’t know where or how I am going to vote,” freshman Gabby Brown said. “I don’t know any of the options that are available to me as a college student.”  

Freshman Jessica Goodis said she wasn’t “educated enough on who was running,” which was why she was unsure if she would vote. 

Despite Election day being a state holiday in New York, Brockport does not give students the day off. When asked about the idea, Kapp made no indication that the school would remove a class day from the calendar to promote voting by students.  

“Election Day is not a national holiday as it is in some other countries,” Kapp said. “Our commitment to the student voters led us in our efforts to make our campus a polling place. Becoming a polling place is a community collaboration that provides both community members and students the opportunity to cast their ballots.” 

The idea of an Election day holiday is popular among most Americans. According to the American Bar Association, a survey in April stated that 66% of citizens supported the creation of voting holidays.  

“Having no school would make voting more of a priority since I would have nothing else to do” Brown said. 

 However, the idea has been stalled in Congress due to the partisan nature of voting laws in the US.  

 The Brockport Voting website leads students on how they can vote and check registration status, polling places and candidates. Students are expected to vote in record numbers this year, however, even the predicted amount would not move students past the next lowest voting segment.   

 Brockport has plans to alleviate the other unique obstacles that college students face such as transportation and not living in their home district with their Brock the vote campaign. 

“SULA went to different locations around campus to help students register to vote, check their voting status, and see what their ballot will look like on Nov. 8,” Kapp said.  

One of the initiatives included offering a polling place on campus for those who register with their school address as well as directions on how students can get mail-in ballots to their dorms. To access the site, click here, or students can stop by the Community Development in Seymour College Union 203.  

The Student Union encouraged students to get involved, stating they have many opportunities for those looking to promote voting in college.  

“Students who are interested in having discussions surrounding political issues are welcome to attend Democratic Engagement’s Deliberative Dialogues. Students can follow along with SULA’s MyBrockport page to find out when these events will take place.” 

SULA was quite optimistic about student turnout this year, noting how successful the initiatives have been in the past. 

“SUNY Brockport has a high rate of voter engagement at this time, as reflected in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). NSLVE calculates college-specific registration and voting rates. According to the most current report in 2020, our registration rate is 82.2, yet the voting rate among registered voters was only 72.1%,” Kapp said. 

These high voting numbers have brought praise to Brockport in the past.  

“We are proud to say that student registration and voting rates for SUNY Brockport are above the national average,” Kapp said. SUNY Brockport was even mentioned in the Washington Monthly article “America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting” for our incredible student engagement. Even still, we will continue to maintain an ongoing focus on civic engagement as it is critical for our nation.” 

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