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Brockport raises college's voter turnout

by Aaron Cerbone - NEWS EDITOR
Tue, Apr 11th 2017 09:00 pm
Screenshot taken from campusvoteproject.com
BROCK THE VOTE - The Office of Community Development is continuously working to create and help maintain the college's political atmosphere.
Screenshot taken from campusvoteproject.com BROCK THE VOTE - The Office of Community Development is continuously working to create and help maintain the college's political atmosphere.

 The College at Brockport has been designated as a "voter friendly college" by Campus Vote Project along with Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Geneseo and 80 other colleges nationwide. The award appreciates student's civic engagement in politics and elections, locally and nationally, selecting colleges with politically active student bodies.

The designation of Brockport is the doing of the college's Office of Community Development which has put a lot of effort into creating Brockport's political atmosphere. 

More influential to Brockport than the designation, the department's process brought the ability to be an engaged voter right to campus with voter registration tabling in the Seymour College Union, absentee ballot applications in the office and debate viewings to make civic engagement a consistent at the college.

Between 100 hours of tabling and visiting 40 classrooms to distribute voter registration material, the department added 1,000 voters to Brockport's campus last year. 

Getting an eighth of the students on campus to register is an impressive feat the department reached by making simplicity a priority.

"We're basically like a one-stop-shop," Kim Piatt said. "You need your voter registration and you need your absentee ballot. We get it all for you, we help you fill it out and we mail it in ... We tried to make it as easy as possible."

Brockport is one of six colleges in New York State which earned the designation alongside fellow SUNY colleges SUNY Alfred State College, SUNY Binghamton University and SUNY Geneseo.

Brockport is included on the list of voter friendly colleges because of Community Development efforts on the project. This focus was made possibly by Graduate Assistant Tiye Davis. Davis pushed the whole office and allowed the group which works on several other projects to remain active by taking on a lot of the responsibility for bringing voter registration and engagement to campus. This is something most colleges do not have, having someone wholly focused on improving registration numbers and engagement meant lots more could be done with the program.

Community Development did not pull this campaign off alone, as it worked alongside the support of college President Heidi Macpherson. Together, they worked with the Office of Residential Life, the American Democracy Project and Brockport Student Government to reach multiple areas of campus and a wide range of students.

The department is already doing registration drives again, with one last week to get students ready for elections in November. Piatt says even though the presidential election is over, students should still be getting registered to have a voice in their home towns.

"Local elections are just as, if not sometimes, more important," Piatt said. 

In the area, the Rochester mayoral race is heating up with the current mayor, a county legislator, a television reporter, a businessman and a retired school teacher all campaigning for the position. Buffalo and Syracuse will also be electing mayors, and in New York City, several Democrats are competing with current mayor Bill de Blasio and Independent Paul J. Massey Jr. is raising a surprising amount of funding according to The New York Times article, "Paul J. Massey Jr. Takes Lead in New York's Mayoral Fundraising Race".

Piatt recommends that if you do not register for wherever you live, register in the Village of Brockport.

"You have this really unique ability to have your voice be heard," Piatt said. "The village board makes decisions all the time that impact students."

Last year at SUNY Geneseo, two students made a large jump from voters to candidates as they ran for Village Trustee in Geneseo. According to the Geneseo Sun article, "Students sweep Geneseo trustee election", Geneseo students Mary Rutigliano and Matthew Cook ran against three other candidates for two seats on the village board, earning over 1,000 votes collectively and beating out the candidates, including the incumbent.

Community Development has plans to expand Brockport's political involvement hope to raise the college's voter turnout which in the 2012 election was 3,389 out of 5,789 registered voters, right around the national average. After receiving data on actual voting rates from the election in a few weeks, the department will include the new information in its new plan for continuing political engagement at Brockport.



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