by, Christine Nappi & Jilleen Barrett, Features Editor and A&E Asst. Editor
Exercising the right to vote is one of the main actions Jaspers Vote is hoping the college community will take in the upcoming election. Despite apprehension or confusion felt during the voting process, Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel, the dean of students and activist for Jaspers Vote, puts the act of voting as this: “nobody has the right to sit down and feel hopeless, there’s too much work to do.” She finds that this quote, spoken by the political and social activist Dorothy Day, sums up what Jaspers Vote is all about: inspiring others to vote and make a difference in their country.
Jaspers Vote is the college’s voter engagement committee that formed this past year in an effort to create conversation and awareness about the voting process. The purpose of the committee is to educate Jaspers about voting and encourage them to take part in elections.
“It’s a concerted effort by the college to try to bring as many people together towards voter engagement,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. “The idea is to try to get as many students empowered to understand the voting process … it’s not just increased registration but it’s also this place or space where people can ask their particular questions.”
Abreu-Hornbostel, along with the rest of the committee, encourages students to ask questions, whether it be about registering to vote or seeking resources to determine who to vote for. One of the main goals is to simply spark conversation on the topic.
“This is what we’re trying to do is trying to encourage people to at least have a place to go to ask for information,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. “Maybe talk about anything particular to their case or their scenario, that might need attention and try to connect people up with resources.”
Chris Machol, a sophomore finance and economics major, is actively involved in Jaspers Vote. Machol works with the rest of the committee to spread the word about voting, man registration tables, host debate watch parties and brainstorm ideas to encourage voting. He described the main purpose of Jaspers Vote as providing resources to students and raising awareness about voting, while aiming to diminish any confusion among students about the registration and voting process.
“We provide resources to people so that they’re able to vote,” Machol said. “It’s good to just have this committee, this organization that is dedicated to helping students find out all that information.”
Some of the resources include information on how to register to vote in each state and how to obtain an absentee ballot. The committee also serves as an outlet for students to raise their questions and concerns. Jaspers Vote additionally has an Instagram page, @mc_jaspersvote that provides further information.
Margaret Groarke, a professor of political science and moderator of the government and politics club, explained in an email that they hope to increase the percentage of people at the college who vote in the upcoming election.
“The purpose [of Jaspers Vote] is to increase the civic participation of our student body,” Groarke wrote. “In the 2016 election, 50.4 percent of Manhattan College students voted. Our goal this year is to make that number at least 57 percent.”
Another purpose of Jaspers Vote is to show students that their voice matters, according to Machol. He finds voting to be important because of how many people fought for voting rights, and because it helps maintain a healthy democracy.
“The purpose of Jaspers Vote is to raise political awareness and make people realize that their political voice matters, and to help understand that we live in a democracy and so that means you have the right to vote so you might as well utilize that,” Machol said. “And if you complain about politics and you don’t vote, then you don’t have anything to complain about.”
The committee believes the general act of voting is important, however Abreu-Hornbostel described that voting in this election in particular is extremely important.
One issue Abreu-Hornbostel raises is the complications brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“This year because of COVID, [Jaspers Vote] is actually taking on a different flavor, it’s more about what are the things to think about that can make your vote invalid, and how do I become aware of that so that I don’t make those mistakes and so that my vote counts,” Abreu-Hornbostel said.
She described how voting will be different this year with the pandemic preventing some people from being able to go to the polls and opting for mail-in ballots instead. She noted how paying attention to the details of mail-in ballots, such ensuring it’s filled out correctly and placed in a privacy envelope, is critical.
“We’re really trying to get as many of us registered to vote [and] aware of the difficulties during COVID, because now mailing has become much more complicated,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. “All those little details that normally are not an issue when you’re coming in person, are going to become an issue.”
Another issue she raised with this election in particular is the divergence between the two parties on issues of great importance that the country is currently facing.
“We’re not a multi-party system, we claim to be, but really a two party system and it’s unfortunate because what it does is it kind of puts one against the other, as to opposed to if we were really able to look at the multiparty system that we could really look at all these issues a lot more comprehensively,” Abreu-Hornbostel said.
As a solution to this, Abreu-Hornbostel suggests that students reach out to Jaspers Vote to learn more about how they can become more educated on the topics at hand. She also encourages students to look at Voter411.org and PewResearch.org.
“In our case, we’ve got to know the issues of the month or the issues of the year to really know which party is going to represent that issue best,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. “And because we tend to be a two party system, we tend to go all in one way or the other and not necessarily understand the issues at play.”
From now until the election on Nov. 3, Jaspers Vote will continue to serve as a resource for students. They plan to work with the Student Government Association and the Campus Ministry and Social Action to create a difficult dialogue series centered around voting, as a way for students to share what issues they are concerned with and to ask questions.
Students interested in getting involved in Jaspers Vote can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Students are encouraged to voice their questions and concerns to the committee, so that Jaspers Vote can achieve the goal of inspiring the community to vote and make a difference.
“It’s really important not to let your life pass by without engaging in the things that we care about,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. “We need opportunities for engagement in this conversation, and we need students’ voices in this.”