Hundreds of students gathered at SUNY New Paltz last week to gain momentum for young people turning out to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. They were joined by several political advocacy organizations, entertainers and guest speakers including New Paltz Village Mayor Tim Rogers. The main purpose of this event was to make sure that students are informed about what elections are taking place on November 6 and who is running for each political office.
According to the National Study of Learning Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), only 14 percent of SUNY New Paltz students voted in the last midterm election that took place in 2014. However, SUNY New Paltz students voted in much larger numbers in 2016. According to NSLVE, about 56 percent of SUNY New Paltz students voted in the last presidential election, about six percent higher than the national average of voter participation at higher education institutions.
“In addition to the lack of young people that turn out to the polls, New York’s voter registration and voter participation rates are anemic in general,” said New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG) coordinator Eric Wood. “ A U.S. Elections Project analysis showed New York to have among the five worst turnout rates in the nation among eligible voters. This is why NYPIRG works to register so many voters and has events like the “Hawk the Vote” event today; we are committed to ensuring that political participation is available and accessible to all eligible New Yorkers.”
“Young people are the future, but there will be no valuable future for us if we don’t work to create the America we want,” said Ellie Condelles, Democracy Matters representative. “Voting is the most direct way to initiate change — so if students are unhappy with today’s political climate, they need to cast a ballot and have their voice heard.”
“Students have experienced tuition hikes, cuts to higher education, stagnating wages and have been saddled with massive student load debt,” said Brian Obach, Director of Environmental Studies at SUNY New Paltz. “Political mobilization is absolutely essential to addressing these problems. Young people have important ideas to contribute. Their involvement is needed not only for the protection of their own interests, but for safeguarding democracy. Citizens who do not exercise their political rights can easily lose them.”
Election day is Tuesday, November 6. All registered voters in Ulster County are eligible to vote. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.