With the special New Jersey senatorial election happening on Wednesday, Oct. 16, the University continues to provide the resources necessary for students who want to vote in local, state and national elections, from facilitating voter registration to providing directions to polling locations.
Led by Princeton Votes, more commonly known as P-Votes, a non-partisan student organization that promotes civic engagement, according to its website,several student organizations have aimedto mobilize students and make it easier for them to participate and vote, both in the upcoming election and in past ones.
According to College Democrats president Will Mantell ’14 and College Republicans president David Will ’14, the two groups have collaborated with P-Votes to hold voter registration sessions in late September. The groups also aimed to encourage students to “vote in a bipartisan way,” Will said.
The Office of Community and Regional Affairs and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students also provide University support for these students who wish to vote. Kristin Appelget, the director of the OCRA, explained that her office maintains a website with all the relevant information, including where to vote and how to register.
“We have the voter information on the website, and we’ll do exactly what we’ve been doing by making sure P-Votes has voter registration forms, and also working with the Associate Dean for Student Life at the Graduate School, to make sure that information is shared with the graduate students about registration and polling locations for the elections,” Appelget said.
Additionally, the voting process has been made more convenient by a number of recent changes.
“It’s actually much easier now, because the campus used to be split into two precincts, and the voting locations were off–campus for a good number of students; whereas everyone who lives on campus now, as far as the most recent round of redistricting, votes down in Icahn,” Mantell explained.
Aside from initiatives by University-affiliated organizations, the University was also approached by TurboVote,a nonprofit organization dedicated to making it easier for citizens to register for and vote in elections.TurboVote has agreed to partnerships with many colleges and universities across the United States, including Harvard, Columbia and schools within the New Jersey area such as Rutgers, Director of Partnerships at TurboVote Sam Novey said.
“The college has its own specific TurboVote site, for example, columbia.turbovote.org, and basically, the school promotes that to the students, and students are able to sign up and the college covers the cost of the materials needed to vote in those elections,” Novey explained.
However, despite talks with the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the Undergraduate Student Government, a partnership between TurboVote and the University never materialized, University Student Life Committee ChairGreg Smith ’15, the liaison in the discussions between the University and TurboVote, explained.
“We basically determined that all the services that TurboVote offers, ODUS already offers during elections. We concluded that the needs that TurboVote was designed to meet were already being met on campus, and we saw no need to partner with an outside organization when all the needs were already being met here at Princeton,” explained Smith.
While a partnership between the University and TurboVote has not yet materialized, Novey maintains the possibility of a collaboration later on. “We’re always open to a partnership with Princeton in the future; they’re already doing some good work and TurboVote would definitely be open to something that would complement the work that Princeton is doing.”
Both Mantell and Smith predicted that the turnout for the upcoming Wednesday election will be relatively good. “Among the Princeton students who are registered voters in New Jersey, I think you’ll see a good number. This is an important election so I think that a lot of people will come out and vote,” Smith said.
Will, however, said he thought the turnout would be lower. "Special elections, from what I understand, the people who vote in those tend to be the more dedicated voters, as opposed to those who are just peripherally involved who only tend to vote in regular federal or state elections," he explained.
Mantell and Smith also both actively encouraged students to participate and exercise their civic duty in this election.
“I just think that everyone who can vote should vote,” Smith said. “I think Princeton emphasizes this — it’s a civic duty to participate in the government, and I think voting in this election is a part of our civic duty.”
Voting takes place on Wednesday in the lobby of the Carl Icahn Laboratory and the Computer Science Building Lobby.