Posted by Julia Leef
On Tuesday, Nov. 6, students will have the opportunity, many of them for the first time, to vote in the 2012 Presidential Elections. A voting machine will be available from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on campus in the Inter-Cultural Center in Case Center.
The College's promotion of student voters stems, according to its website, from the federal Higher Education Act, which requires colleges and universities to provide voter registration forms to all students, and from the College's Strategic Plan, which lists registering and voting to mark the actions of an informed citizenry, one of the main goals of the plan.
"There's been a lot of interest in voting, a lot of people who want to register to vote," Aaron Shifreen '13, who volunteered as a campus coordinator for Obama for America alongside the League of Women Voters at the Tang Museum, said. "We've registered probably 200-300 students, and that's not counting the students that Skidmore Democrats register."
The College has had many proponents of the election on campus, including Government Professor Robert Turner. Turner, who could not be reached in time for this article, moderated the "Saratoga Springs City Charter Open Forum" on Oct. 4. This forum helped educate voters about the proposed new charter for the City of Saratoga Springs that would create an Council/Manager form of government for the November ballot.
Dan Nathan, professor of American Studies, also contributed to the political atmosphere with his essay on presidential politics as the American pastime. The essay, which was published online on The Conversation, compared the intense rivalry and competitiveness of politics to sports.
"Like athletes, political candidates are written about and widely seen as heated rivals-for popularity, power, and prestige," Nathan said in his essay. "Presidential politics in the U.S., in particular, draw on the rhetoric and iconography of sport."
"It's your civic duty to vote, you live in a democracy The way people get authority and gain their power is through the citizenship, so if you don't necessarily vote, you're sort of disregarding the principles on which this country is founded on," Shifreen said. "People take that for granted and we are in a generation where nearly the majority of the country doesn't necessarily take the time to stay informed and make choices for themselves."
Regardless of these efforts, Shifreen said that there have been difficulties in getting students to register to vote. According to him, some of the efforts to increase student participation in politics, such as posting phone banks every Tuesday for the past month, were received with little to no interest from the student body.
"People have wanted to register to vote, which is good," Shifreen said. "But it's been very difficult to get people to do more than that. We tried to spread the word out as much as possible, and it just wasn't working."
After voting, students will have the opportunity to participate in the "Election Returns Extravaganza," a Student Government Association-planned event that begins at 5:30 p.m. and will run throughout the evening at the Tang Museum.
The event offers door-prizes for students wearing "I just voted" stickers, food, coverage of the election returns on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, live-streamed website coverage, and campaign and debate reaction highlights from shows such as Saturday Night Live, the Daily Show, Mo Rocca and The Colbert Report.
Ron Seyb, chairman of the Government department, will also be present at the event at 5:45 p.m. to discuss the swing states using interactive maps and polling data.
"Before you vote, really do stay informed on the issues that are most important to you," Shifreen said. "Even if you may not agree with each candidate on every issue, find the one that you feel like you agree with the most. It doesn't have to be Barack Obama, it doesn't have to be Mitt Romney, it could be Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. Your vote does count, and you should take it upon yourself to do your duty."