The Mount prides itself on high voter participation, winning a gold seal in the 2019 ALL In Campus Democracy Challenge for substantially increasing its student voting rate.
The push to get students to the polls continued into 2020, particularly now with the fall semester underway. Several Mount students attended the virtual California Student Voting Summit in September and were energized to exercise their constitutional right – and many would say obligation – to vote.
“One of the biggest takeaways I got from the summit was how important it is for college students to be involved in informing peers about voting and empowering them to take action in things they are passionate about,” says Summer Woods ‘21. “We have a say in who leads us. We may not always have the best choices to choose from, but by not voting we miss a voice, that one vote toward a better future.”
The nonpartisan MSMU Votes coalition of faculty, staff and students is currently focused on maximizing the number of student voter registrations. Oct. 4-9 is National Voter Education Week, and the coalition will turn its attention to educating students about the pros and cons of local ballot initiatives, the importance of early voting and the validity of mail-in voting.
Chinako Belanger, interim director of the women’s leadership program and a member of the League of Women Voters, is hoping to conduct several rounds of ballot initiative overviews, including at least one that includes students’ families. “It’s easy to understand everyone’s confusion,” she says. “One minute there’s a ‘Yes on Prop. 22’ campaign, for example, and the next minute there’s a ‘No on Prop. 22.’ It’s not easy for voters to understand what the issues are and what the effect of either vote would be.”
Campaign confusion is no excuse for apathy, says Woods. “My advice for any student that wants to be more engaged with voting and the elections is simply be proactive. Politicians and business corporations are hoping you are misinformed or that you simply do not pay attention.”
The educational push is happening a bit earlier than usual this year so that voters will be ready for the inaugural National Vote Early Day on Oct. 24. “We want people to get their ballots mailed off seven to 14 days before the election,” says Belanger. “This year we’re really reframing the way we’re talking about the election. November 3rd is the last day to vote, not the day to vote. That’s certainly been a shift in terms of how we’re talking about the election.”
Woods added that students shouldn’t get complacent following the presidential election. “State and local elections count too because they affect you more rapidly and directly.”