NYPIRG Reflects on Successful Democracy Campaign

Interior of the NYPIRG office in CCN (Photo by Stephen DiFiore).

by Davone Presley

After seeing record high numbers of voters among students during the recent 2018 midterm elections, the student advocacy organization NYPIRG plans on keeping those numbers high, and helping students realize the power of their vote.

During the weeks leading up to the elections, NYPIRG volunteers used various methods to spread the word about the importance of the midterms, from going door to door, to making calls to students reminding them to vote. “Every fall, whether its leading into a local election, or a presidential election, we do a voter registration drive,” NYPIRG Project Coordinator Elisabeth Lareau said when asked about NYPIRG’s methods of voter outreach. In addition, NYPIRG also utilized social media leading up to the election.

According to Lareau, these and other methods such as door-to-door canvasing, helped lead to a sharp increase in campus voters for the midterm election, up from around 104 students in 2014’s midterms to 797 voters in 2018, according to NYPIRG.

Their efforts managed to reach voters both on and off campus, such as senior screenwriting major Jared Gauthier-Snipe, who despite voting off-campus, praised NYPIRG’s efforts. “I’m aware of their presence on campus,” Jared said, adding that while he voted off campus, his girlfriend, Oona O’Brein not only voted on campus, but was also inspired to do so thanks to NYPIRG’s efforts.

“NYPIRG actually called her, like remaindering to remember to vote,” said Jared, remarking that the organization “They’re just trying to make sure everyone’s voice gets heard.”

But getting students to vote is not the only voting related issue the NYPIRG seeks to solve. In addition, the organization also wants to help students understand the importance of voting. One way that NYPIRG plans to do so is by addressing the misconception that voting doesn’t matter, which is a major concern for the advocacy group.

“They take it for granted,” Lareau lamented when asked about why some young people do not see voting’s importance, later adding that many students forget that many groups, such as felons, cannot vote. “When they realize that not everyone has the ability to vote they see it as something more valuable.”

Getting students to vote more consistently is also a goal for the group. NYPIRG member Oscar Salazar knows that people tend to view midterm elections with less importance, without those people realizing just how impactful a midterm vote can be. Specifically, Salazar said that, “A lot of people that go for the primary [elections], go on to go to General Election. And you have a say in that as well.”

Going into the future, NYPIRG aims to increase its efforts to increase student voting. Even after the 2018 midterms, according to Salazar, NYPIRG is still in “full swing!”

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PSGA Bylaws (August 2018), Student Bill of Rights, Section B. Freedom of Speech, Press and Inquiry

Neither the student government nor any faculty or administrative person or board shall make a rule or regulation or take any action which abridges students’ freedom of speech, press or inquiry, as guaranteed Constitutional rights as citizens of the United States. Students of the campus are guaranteed:

  1.  the right to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them, and to express opinion privately and publicly;

  2. the right to learn in the spirit of free inquiry;

  3. the right to be informed of the purposes of all research in which they are expected or encouraged to participate either as subject or researcher;

  4. the right to freedom from censorship in campus newspapers and other media 

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