College Attempts to Curb Voter Apathy

Drew Kaplan ’20, Associate Opinion Editor

Although 2017 isn’t a presidential election year, voter registration drives have sprung up across campus. The Office of Student Leadership & Campus Engagement (SLCE) held a registration drive on Tuesday, September 19, with another one planned for Friday the 22, and the College Democrats and College Republicans will hold a joint registration drive on October 5.

Josh Eisenberg, Assistant Dean of New Student Programs and Student Leaderships, who headed Tuesday’s drive, spoke about some of the problems faced by college voters:

“Too many colleges, including Dickinson, only focus on the four years. 2012, 2016, 2020. That’s not truly civic engagement, which is really important to start right away. 2017 is not what everyone would call an exciting election year in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has no “big elections” this year, but it’s not about big elections, it’s about engaging civically at the ballot box all the time.”

He said that, for the 2016 election, “although we found that 86% of our students eligible to vote registered to vote, only 54% of the 86% voted. What we started this year is that we had for the first time ever three hours of voter registration during orientation. Since then, we partnered with Senate and the Student Liberation Movement to have voter registration available at the DACA letter signing. I’m working with some faculty to help us table on Friday. We want students to register, and we want students to vote. There are 18,000 citizens in Carlisle. Dickinson has about 2,100 on campus at any one time. 11% of this borough are Dickinson students. Dickinson students can impact regardless of party affiliation. In 2020, we’ll be doing another census. I think voting is an important thing we do.”

Professors also encourage students to go to the polls. Chair and Professor of Political Science David Strand considers voter apathy to be an issue:

“The way I think about this, is why vote, because elections are rarely decided by one vote?  So, some people think of elections, including registering to vote, as unnecessary, because the idea that that is going to matter is hard to imagine. However, in my experience, voting is part of a culture, it’s part of a movement. Voting is rarely done by a single individual. You do it with family, you do it with friends. That makes it more likely that your influence will go beyond your single ballot. Voting is not done just by the single individual, but by the community.”

Assistant Professor of Political Science Toby Reiner spoke of the importance of voting as well:

“As someone who is not eligible to vote, who doesn’t have that right to vote, membership in a political community is a really important good for all of us as human beings. The ability to be a citizen is a really good thing. We receive protection but we also have closer connections with our fellows. I miss that aspect of community membership when others are able to vote and I’m not able to do so. People have fought for the right to vote and died for it for centuries, and because of not having it, they’ve really suffered, and treating it casually seems to me a mistake. The decline of Constitution tends to start with people not taking low level things seriously.”

The ballot on Tuesday, November 7 will be for state legislative candidates, state judicial candidates, school boards, municipal elections and a ballot measure according to ballotpedia.org  and the deadline to register to vote in the upcoming election is October 10.