With midterm elections rapidly approaching, students in the Center for Political Engagement (CPE) are working to increase student engagement with the voting process. 

This past Tuesday, CPE held voter registration drives in Wilson Commons and Wegmans Hall in an attempt to increase the voter registration rate of the student body. Junior and CPE President Payge Vukelic said the efforts have yielded mixed results. Only around 30 to 40 students total registered to vote that Tuesday, she said.

“We attended the [first-year] expo at the beginning of the school year, and we got a lot of people at that event, so we were expecting a little bit lower numbers than usual and I’d say this was in line with that,” said Vukelic.

She said a lot of students were excited to see the booths because they had been meaning to register anyhow. Others would just walk on by. Vukelic said CPE has also been working to increase student voting accessibility by installing a polling location on campus. 

“The committee really wanted to get a polling location on campus, but the Monroe County Board of Elections says you have a certain registration amount, like a percentage of the student body, in order to have a polling location, and I think currently we’re one or two percentage points under the allotted rate,” said Vukelic.

Figures from an Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE) report published earlier this month suggest that around 83% of the College’s student body registered to vote in 2020 and that the campus had an overall voting rate of 68%. However, 2020 was a presidential election year. In 2018, a midterm year like 2022, the campus had a 76% registration rate and a 37% voting rate, according to the report.

The report also suggests, based on IDHE’s estimated calculations, that registration rates have been disproportionately lower for students in business and STEM programs. In 2020, those studying business, computer or information science, and mathematics and statistics had the lowest voting rates of the college — 25%, 31%, and 24% respectively, according to the report.

“We’ve really been trying to target those majors and so we had tabling in the engineering quad to try to focus on those groups to get that registration rate up to get a polling location on campus” Vukelic told the CT

Even with a polling location on campus, Vukelic said notable barriers to increased on-campus voter engagement would still exist. 

“A lot of people have classes all day long, and if Election Day is on one of my busy days, I wouldn’t be able to vote,” sophomore CPE member Gautam Bajaj told the CT. “I think if we did have the day off, more people would be encouraged to vote. I think there’s more on this ballot now than there was in previous years, and I think it is very important that everyone goes out and votes.”

Students can reach out to uofr.cpe@gmail.com to find more information on how to register to vote.

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