MIDDVOTE WANTS YOU TO VOTE
The student group MiddVote has led the charge to increase voter participation on campus this election season with the goal of doubling Middlebury students’ 14 percent voter turnout in 2014. Abby Dennis ’21 and Nora Bayley ’21 are spearheading the initiative as co-organizers.
MiddVote is a non-partisan organization that strives to increase civic engagement and informed voter participation. The group has provided resources and hosted events to help guide students through the voter registration and absentee ballot application processes.
“It’s hard to tell people what to do and how to vote because it’s different in every state,” Dennis said.
Hazel Millard ’18 founded MiddVote with help from the college’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), which provides funding. Thanks to Millard, MiddVote has a master document detailing voter registration and absentee ballot instructions and online application links and due dates for each state. At MiddVote’s voter drives, students can find stamps, envelopes and copies of each form for states that use a non-electronic system. MiddVote even mails student’s forms. MiddVote and the CCE worked together to provide the Center for Careers and Internships, Mail Center and Residential Commons offices with stamps to give students for free.
Since the beginning of the school year, MiddVote has helped more than 60 students register to vote and more than 160 students apply for an absentee ballot.
“Even if students don’t stop, simply seeing our table in Wilson reminds students to register on their own,” Bayley said.
Along with drives, MiddVote has organized a shuttle that will run from Adirondack Circle (ADK) to the polls every hour on Election Day, Nov. 6.
A #VoteTogether Celebration organized by MiddVote and the CCE will also be held at College Park across from Shafer’s Market & Deli on Election Day from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Free pizza, hot chocolate and face-painting by college student volunteers will be provided. The event is a local celebration under the national #VoteTogether initiative, which aims to host 2,000 similar events across the country to bring community members together to vote and celebrate civic engagement. Bayley and Dennis won a grant from MTV’s +1theVote campaign, which selects one application from each of the 50 states to receive funding for a voting celebration.
This event is especially important to MiddVote’s organizers because in Vermont, citizens can register to vote on Election Day, and all Middlebury students registered to vote in the U.S. are eligible to vote in Vermont.
“A lot of students have been registering in Vermont, especially people who missed the registration deadline in their home state. This event allows students to get to the polls, register and vote on Election Day,” Dennis said.
In addition to posting reminders on its social media account, MiddVote has reached out to President Laurie Patton and the Student Government Association President Nia Robinson to send out campus-wide emails with voter participation reminders. MiddVote volunteers are also taking a grassroots approach by announcing reminders in classes.
The Middlebury College Democrats and the Middlebury College Republicans have left the voter participation push to MiddVote.
“I have huge respect for what MiddVote does. The Middlebury College Democrats have resisted pressure to do partisan registration out of respect for MiddVote,” said Grace Vedock ’20, the president of College Democrats. Although some members within the Middlebury College Democrats have pushed for encouraging voters to support Democratic candidates, the club’s leadership has decided not to facilitate partisan voting. This has translated into club members volunteering at MiddVote drives rather than operating under the Middlebury College Democrats banner.
Dennis, Bayley and Vedock noted that the country seems more tuned into this election than in previous non-presidential election years.
“It is easy to get frustrated with government and feel like your voice isn’t being heard, but the solution to that is not to not vote,” Bayley said.
“If everyone says that their vote doesn’t count, then their vote won’t count,” Dennis said.