Election day, Nov. 6, is fast approaching and the window of opportunity to get involved is closing quickly.
According to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), which conducts research on the political and civic engagement of young people out of Tufts University in Massachusetts, there are 46 million people ages 18-29 years old who are eligible to vote. That demographic makes up 24 percent of the eligible voting population in the United States.
In 2008, 51 percent of the youth voting population came out to vote, which was a 2 percent increase from the 2004 election numbers and an 11 percent increase from those of the 2000 election. While this number is low compared to the adult demographic, in 2008, 84 percent of young people who were registered to vote cast a ballot.
The key to improving the youth vote, then, is not encouraging the young to get to their polling place on election day; it is, rather, encouraging them to register and educating them on how to do so.
The deadline to register to vote in New York State is 25 days before the election, or, this year, Oct. 12.
Ben DeAngelis, regional campus
supervisor for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), a non-partisan, student-directed research and advocacy organization, said that one of the most popular questions from students that he helps to register is whether or not to register under their Stony Brook University address or their home address.
DeAngelis said that he encourages people to register under their campus address. Students spend the majority of their year here, he argues, and it allows you to get your vote in more easily when you can walk to the Student Activities Center instead of sending in an absentee ballot or driving home.
But DeAngelis also said that by voting under their campus address, students can directly influence policies that affect the State University of New York system.
“There’s a real correlation between the politicians who invest in SUNY and the amount of young people registered in their districts,” he said. “The more students we register here, the stronger the message we send to local politicians that they’re accountable to students.”
However, DeAngelis stressed that the most important thing is simply voting in the first place.
“I don’t care who you vote for or what you vote on, just recognize that the election not just about presidents,” DeAngelis said. “It’s really important that people pay attention to all of the issues and all of the candidates, not just what they see on ‘The Daily Show.’”
Registering to vote
There are many ways to register to vote both in person and online. On campus, both the University Student Government office and the NYPIRG office distribute applications, and once they’re filled out the offices will mail or deliver them to the appropriate location for you. Additionally, the Stony Brook College Democrats register voters from a table in the SAC lobby most days.
Otherwise, you can go in person to your local County Board of Elections or Department of Motor Vehicles.
There are also many methods online. Two popular and user-friendly websites that register voters are rockthevote.org and vote411.org, a project of the League of Women Voters.
Knowing your candidates
There are many ways to educate yourself about the candidates, including visiting their official websites. But there are also websites that personalize and streamline the process for voters.
Vote411.org allows you to enter your address and then brings up a list of all the candidates that will appear on your ballot. From there, you can compare two candidates running for a position at a time by seeing their responses to questions about key issues side by side. Additionally, you can ‘choose’ your preferred candidate as you move through the varied positions, and then print out or email yourself a list of your choices to bring with you to the polls.
Alternatively, votesmart.org/voteeasy offers an interactive tool. You are prompted to answer questions on issues like abortion, immigration and education, and indicate how important each issue is to you. The tool also provides a short summary of why people generally agree with or object to the question at hand.
Meanwhile, the candidates are displayed at the bottom of the screen, and as you answer questions a percentage of “how similar they are to you” is calculated. At the end, you are given a ‘“best match.” You can then further explore information about the candidates, which ranges from their basic information to their voting records and campaign finances. The tool works for both presidential and state candidates.
Additionally, isidewith.com offers voters what is, essentially, a survey. There are a series of questions to answer and, again, you are prompted to put a weight on the significance of each topic. In the end, you are given results of how all the candidates stack up in comparison to you, measured by a percentage. The results also break down by percentage which parties you side with. Currently, though, the survey is only offered for presidential candidates.