Voter registration efforts in CUNY combat political apathy

With the Oct. 14 presidential election registration deadline in mind, CUNY implemented its first university-wide initiative to encourage students to register. On CUNYfirst, students can find their “NYS Voter Registration Form,” a personalized voter registration form that can be filled out and brought to select members of the Undergraduate Student Government.

With many of the form’s fields pre-filled with information previously provided by the student, all that is required of students is to fill out the party affiliation, confirm whether they have previously voted and print it out.

Baruch College has also worked closely behind this initiative, instructing all TEAM Baruch peer mentors to distribute voter registration forms to their Freshman Seminar classes. The USG is also working to register students by hosting a voter registration drive with other clubs on Sept. 27 on the 25th Street Plaza, a day after the first presidential debate takes place. As an incentive, USG is offering a $250 co-sponsorship to the club that registers the most students.

Baruch’s initiative to encourage higher voter turnout works hard against reducing voter apathy, particularly among millennials. By providing students with an easier means of registering to vote, it reduces one of the few hurdles left in the voting process.

All that is left for students to do is mail their forms in, find out where their voting site is and vote. This initiative eases the voting process, which, in the United States, usually requires citizens to take action on their own. Countries like France and Sweden automatically register their citizens to vote, a move that was credited for increasing voter turnout.

The push to register 18-year-old freshmen is a great start in encouraging students to get more involved with the political process. It reduces voter apathy and diminishes the stigma that millennials do not vote or care about their national government. In the 2012 presidential election, two-thirds of CUNY students who were registered to vote voted. Although it is not guaranteed, this initiative may result in greater turnout among CUNY students.

CUNY should also encourage students to get more involved with and informed about their local governments. For example, the institution could encourage students who are New York City residents to learn more about local politicians and primaries. However, it is important to note that while registering is the first and most essential step required in order to be able to vote, a high registration rate may not correlate with an increase in voter turnout.