Hobart and William Smith Colleges are known for their civic engagement, volunteer efforts and community partnerships across an array of domains. One student-led organization, HWSVotes! will celebrate its 10th anniversary of campus involvement this fall.
“The organization’s impact is felt in its continued engagement with a diverse number of politically-minded student groups on campus, from College Democrats to Americans for Informed Democracy, in order to educate the HWS community on the issues they will be voting on come Election Day,” says Olivia Lowenberg ‘15, who serves as co-civic leader with Josh Weinstein ‘17 for HWSVotes!
The organization has served the Colleges and the wider community since the fall 2004 election, in which President George W. Bush faced challenger and then-Senator John Kerry. Its mission is to raise voter turnout among students as well as to increase the political awareness of the local community. In 2012, the group began a partnership with TurboVote, an online voter-registration service, and registered more than 800 students through the innovative platform. This made the Colleges the No. 1 TurboVote campus partner in the country in terms of percentage of student body registered.
TurboVote is a service provided by Democracy Works, Inc. that strives to make the voter-registration process simpler and more easily accessible in order to increase voter turnout and civic awareness. This fall, the organization hopes to bolster voter turnout.
The process for signing up for TurboVote is simple. Students can register either online or through an app with a smart phone. The organization tracks the rules and deadlines for each state and sends forms and alerts voters, so the individual only needs to sign a registration form and drop it into the mail.
“We are approaching the midterm elections, where young voter turnout is historically much weaker than presidential election years,” says Assistant Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning Jeremy Wattles, who serves as advisor for the group. “I’d like for our campus to buck that trend and be very active this fall.”
This fall, HWSVotes! plans to highlight the race for the 23rd Congressional District, in which incumbent U.S. Rep. Thomas Reed faces a challenge from Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson. The 23rd Congressional District includes Geneva.
HWSVotes! has also partnered with the Geneva chapter of the League of Women Voters to host local forums where town residents can meet and interact with candidates running for local office.
“It is my hope that young people become increasingly aware that their voice, their vote, is important,” says Lowenberg. “The more we vote, the more we can work to create the changes we want to see at the local and national levels.”
Further information on HWSVotes! may be found online here.