The Jasper voting turnout from 2020. MANHATTAN.EDU /COURTESY
By Maizy Swift, Asst. Production Editor and Barbara Vasquez, Staff Writer
Manhattan College’s Jaspers Vote Campaign makes an effort to aid students in registering to vote, as well as educate students on the importance of voting and current political issues.
The Jaspers Vote Campaign recently held an event in the Social Action Suite to help students get involved in the voting process.
Margaret Groarke, Ph.D., a political science professor who runs the Jaspers Vote Campaign explained how this event was meant to help any MC student interested.
“There were specific people we invited, we wanted to have somebody from state government, from athletics, from the commuter services office be represented, and then we just also put out a general call to anybody on campus who was interested in the helping us get more Manhattan College students engaged in the election as registered and voting,” Groarke said.
The Jaspers Vote Campaign has been very successful over the last few years, gaining awards for the amount of MC students who vote. From 2016 to 2020 there was a significant jump in voters amongst the MC population. 59.6 percent of students voted in the 2020 presidential election compared to around 41 percent during the 2016 election.
“Jaspers Vote campaign is an effort to get as many eligible Manhattan College students to participate in elections as possible,” Groarke said. “So I brought this up because we’ve been working on this since 2016 and we’ve won two awards for our participation levels in the 2018 and 2020 elections.”
Groarke explained how important it is for college students and younger people to get involved and vote for what they want.
“Historically, a lower percentage of young people have voted than older people,” Groarke said. “That matters because it means that elected officials have less of an incentive to listen to young people’s issues than older people’s issues, so it’s important to change that dynamic. The numbers have been shifting, more young people are organizing themselves.”
The Jaspers Vote Campaign hopes to make more young people feel confident to vote.
“You don’t have to be an expert to try to stand up for the stuff that you care about,” Groarke said. “So I think people should feel free to do their best and participate on whatever level they can, but it’s relatively easy to vote.”
To engage students, student workers for the campaign set up a table in Kelly Commons with QR codes and flyers about voting and registration, and asked passersby if they were aware of their registration status. With this set up, students show interest and initiative about how to become registered and start voting.
Kaitlyn McDonald, a political science major and student worker under the Jaspers Vote Campaign, attests to the enthusiasm many students have when it comes to getting ready to vote.
“A lot of people actually are interested and want to know more,” McDonald said. “So I think it’s important that we do the tabling– this is really the only resource on campus that acts as an advocate for [student] voting.”
Another student worker for Jaspers Vote, Maria Galindo, agreed with McDonald and shared more about what the new voter experience is like using the campaign.
“It just helps other students on campus know what’s going on with voting and how they register,” Galindo said. “It makes it helpful for them to better understand the steps and how they’re able to register through the school.”
When asked if she had benefited from participating in the campaign, McDonald adds that being a part of Jaspers Vote has helped her in terms of learning more about the voting process and elections.
“It’s helped going through all the processes and learning all about voting, stuff I never even knew about before– really learning about absentee ballots and who’s on the ballot… It’s definitely educated me more being in this role than just educating myself,” McDonald said.
As for the future of Jaspers Vote, they are planning on continuing meetings and tabling to help gain student attention and participation. McDonald shares that while it is hard to set any date for certain, you can definitely look out for Jaspers Vote within the coming weeks.
“We’re going to be having events like tabling and other things we’ve had in mind, to just get people engaged and educated,” McDonald said.
The simple act of educating students about voting and participating in elections is what Jaspers Vote has and continues to do, and proof of the campaign’s impact on students is in the numbers. By getting more students involved and at the ballots, Jaspers Vote helps give students the opportunity and knowledge they need in order for their voices to be heard.