Sarah Lawrence has never been afraid to get political, and with midterm elections rearing up fast, the college has launched a number of initiatives to make the process of voter registration as painless as possible for students.
Just this past summer, Sarah Lawrence has started partnering with TurboVote, an online service developed by Democracy Works that allows users to register to vote, request absentee ballots, and sign up for notifications of upcoming deadlines and voting days among other features. Josh Luce, Director of Student Involvement and Leadership, said that the service came to the college’s attention over the summer.
“Paper voter registration initiatives tend not to be all that much efficient,” he said. “So we felt like Turbovote might be a lot easier for people to do. We signed on in late August and we’ve had a great success using it as kind of a one stop shop for both students and faculty to use.” As of early October, close to 300 Sarah Lawrence community members have signed up to Turbovote, with 165 of that number having actually used Turbovote to register to vote.
Accessing voter resources can definitely be a knotty process, but that’s no reason not to get involved — and for anyone struggling, Luce recommends taking advantage of Turbovote’s Help Desk. “If you’re confused about how to register in your state, or about specific ID requirements from state to state, it has people that are staffed to answer those questions on an individual basis. So if you have questions, that’s an extremely helpful resource.” And as Student Involvement makes clear through its weekly email reminders, students are also more than welcome to contact the office for help.
Pitching into the administration’s efforts, a student-led initiative is offering the incentive to vote with challenges for resident halls. Conceived of and organized by student coordinator Raphael Schoeberlein, and funded by Senate, the challenge is simply: residents are encouraged to sign up with Turbovote, and if the hall reaches 70% participation it will be rewarded with either a pizza or dessert party. Registration, it should be mentioned, takes an average of two minutes or less to complete according to Nonprofit VOTE among other sites — so there’s really nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Once registered, the next step is to get informed, and Sarah Lawrence also has its community pretty soundly covered on that. Much in the spirit of the last year’s Democracy and Education inaugural series, the Office of Community Partnerships has been working with Dean of the College to sponsor several events devoted to local politics. Already, students have attended the Women Running for Congress panel discussion on Oct. 16, which featured “women leaders on the importance of civic engagement locally and beyond.” Panelists included two New York State Senators, the Mayor of Bronxville, a member of the Westchester County Board of Elections, and the first Vice President for the Westchester Chapter of 100 Hispanic Women - Young Latinas Leadership Institute. This event was followed by the New York State Legislative Candidate Forum on Oct. 22, with more opportunities to hear from leaders of local politics to come throughout the year.
Finally, for students registered to vote in the state of New York with the 1 Mead Way campus address, the college will also provide transportation on the day of general elections. Regular shuttles will be traveling to the voting site, a public school just around the corner from Cross County Mall, throughout the day. As registration deadlines have come to a close, it is imperative to remember the day that matters the most: Nov. 6, Voting Day.
Chelsea Liu ‘21