The New York Public Interest Research Group has spent the first month of the semester encouraging students to register to vote for this year’s presidential election.
NYPIRG’s mission is to get students involved in legislative action to effect change in their communities. NYPIRG addresses issues such as higher education affordability, hunger and homelessness, clean air and energy recycling, voter mobilization and other social initiatives.
This semester, registering students to vote is a key activity for the nonprofit organization. Project coordinator Alyssa Ellis believes that through their efforts they can reach their goal.
“Here at Queens College we’re trying to get 2,000 students registered to vote,” Ellis said.
Along with her coworkers, Ellis is committed to student activism not only on campus but outside of Queens College as well. However, they believe student activism is the foundation for including the community.
“Having people get involved in things that are happening, especially with the times what they are now, is really important,” Ellis said. “It’s a nice satisfaction bringing awareness.”
For National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 27, NYPIRG, in partnership with NYC Votes and 30 student volunteers, stationed activists in high traffic subway areas throughout the five boroughs to encourage people to vote.
There are currently 17 NYPIRG chapters throughout the CUNY and SUNY system. These chapters work together and stress the importance of student involvement, arguing that action never occurs without student involvement.
“When we go to lobby for things like higher education affordability, financial aid programs, things that directly affect students, politicians’ biggest arguments are that students don’t care, students don’t vote,” Ellis said.
NYPIRG members understand the lack of interest in voting on the part of students. Students often cite little to no satisfaction with candidates or feeling as though their vote does not matter as some of the reasons they do not vote.
Project coordinator Meghan Cobane wants students to abandon this perspective. She believes the biggest challenge in this voter mobilization initiative is convincing students to take advantage of their right to vote.
“A lot of students feel like they don’t have a voice, or don’t like the candidates this year,” Cobane said. “It is worth it to vote and take advantage of your voice in the political system.”
The gap between millennials and baby boomers is now extremely close – making this year’s presidential election unique in its eligible voter makeup.
According to Pew Research, an estimated 69.2 million millennials are eligible to vote, while there are 69.7 million Baby Boomers. Each age demographic makes up 31 percent of the voting electorate.
Various websites including Google and Headcount.org provide services that assist eligible voters in registering.
Searching “vote” on Google will return information on how to register, the requirements and when to vote.
NYPIRG supports these alternative efforts, but they also believe it would be beneficial for students to register to vote with them because it helps their efforts in supporting their college community.
“It’s always nice to hear people register to vote online, but, for NYPIRG especially, the most effective way to get people to do things is person to person contact.” Ellis said.
Senior Ariana Durkovic, an intern and project leader for NYPIRG’s hunger and homelessness campaign, echoes this sentiment.
“If you get enough students to participate, you can make a change,” Durkovic said.
The final day to register to vote is Oct. 14. NYPIRG will be hosting a Rock the Vote event at QC on Oct. 5.