It was a simple question, “How do I get more students involved with the Presidential Election?” As a political science major and a first-year college student the year of the Bush-Kerry election- the decision to vote was an easy one. However, over the past decade- between two wars, economic recession, and a general distrust in the political process- the demographic of voters 18-25 years has seen a small increase in voter turnout.
The program had four parts. The first would be held on September 25th 2012, National Voter Registration Day. In collaboration with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), the Day Hall Community Council “Daymocracy” held a voter registration drive in the lobby of Day Hall. In a building of 600 first-year residents, over 250 students registered to vote. Many of them did not know that voter registration laws allow them to claim their collegiate residence as a domicile to vote. As an advisor, hall director and political junkie- I was more than happy with the results.
While voter registration was a great first step in terms of sheer number of students registered, I recognized that more had to be done over the next month and half. This is where I developed the middle two aspects of what eventually become known as “DAYcision 2012”. Through my day-to-day interaction with the residents of Day Hall, I became aware of a large number of students who were both politically involved and wanted to know more, or had little experience in politics, but recognized the importance of being an informed voter.
Using this information as the catalyst, I created a six-week voter exploration course. This course was non-partisan in nature and was loosely structured around the American Government and American Presidency classes I took as an undergrad. Turn-out for the class was consistently between 8-10 students on a weekly basis. Each “class” was an hour and half long. The format was a review of election current events, short lecture on the terminology of different electoral subjects that had made the news, and closed with an open discussion about individual polices and political stances that effected college-aged voters.
The third part of this program included watching the Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates as a group, and using social media to interact with the content. These nights were very successful in generating humorous “hashtags” as well as creating conversations around the current issues.
The last part of ‘DAYcision 2012” was bringing students together to actually vote. On Election Day, through building-wide emails and use of our social media sites, I advertised that I would be walking with students to our polling location. Recognizing that our polling site was a 15minute walk, in an obscure location- chaperoning these trips would be key to actual voter turnout. Over four trips, I took approximately 300 residents to the poll to vote.
The success of this program did not lie in the numbers alone. For me, it was the “challenge by choice” element that allowed my residents to pick and choose where to get involved. From passive programming with voter registration and debate watching, to active programming of taking the class or actually voting- the students of Day Hall were able to connect and engage with the political process. It was an honor to create and be involved with a program that was able to positively impact so many young adults.
Submitted by Mark R. Ewing, Residence Director, Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, NY