Student voting low despite efforts to encourage registration

By Anna Derkacz

Youth voting in this month’s midterm elections was at a historic low. All evidence shows Dominican students shared this national apathy, despite efforts to register students and get them to the polls.

Nationally, participation in voting has been on the decline for decades but this year it was the lowest since the second World War at a meager 36 percent.

In 2014, only 254 out of 410 Dominican freshmen who were eligible to vote registered through the UVOTE program during summer orientation. According to Student Government Association President Cutberto Aguayo, this is because students are disenchanted with the political process. Aguayo said: “A unique scenario we find ourselves in not because of our institution at Dominican but because of the circumstances and times we live in. We have this young aspiring candidate for office who really riled people up to vote and then fails to deliver the promises he made for young people. Consequently, young people feel discouraged to participate in political process because they already participated and did not see results.”

Although the 2014 election information is not yet available, if every single one of the 254 students who were registered to vote actually went to the polls, only 62 percent of Dominican students would have voted. UVOTE only registers students that are not already registered and there are some students who refuse to register even if they are eligible.

Dean of Students Norah Collins said UVOTE was part of the summer orientation program. “Students were given a form to indicate if they wanted to vote, were already registered to vote or did not want to register to vote. Prior to that we held voter registration drives on campus usually two days each semester.”

Aguayo is a supporter of the UVOTE program. “I love the program so I decided to keep doing it,” he said. “The results are quite amazing. Without this program itself we wouldn’t be able to register about 80 percent of the incoming students.” The UVOTE program has been in place at Dominican since 2012 and 848 students have registered since its initiation.

This fall, political science professor David Dolence and sophomore Raunel Urquiza organized a campaign to encourage student voting. Urquiza said: “It is important to let people know that it’s their right to vote. With that knowledge I wanted to invite students and raise awareness for students to vote.”

Urquiza and Dolence had a $500 grant from the Campus Engagement Election Project. For two weeks they gave out buttons, non-partisan information about candidates and flyers in the Lewis Alcove. They even provided students information about the local polling stations.

Despite their efforts, the turnout at the polls wasn’t what they expected. Dolence said: “Dominican students tend to be very engaged, it doesn’t necessarily mean they vote though. They still have other things to do, they’re still young.”

derkanna@my.dom.edu