By LORRAINE U. MARTINELLE
DUDLEY, Mass.—Nichols College political science, business, and leadership students helped approximately 120 high school and college students register to vote last week, ahead of the Oct. 17 registration deadline to vote in the Nov. 6 mid-term election.
Nichols professors Erika Cornelius Smith, Ph.D. (political science chair) and Libba Moore, Ph.D., (human resource management chair) brought a group of 14 Nichols students to Nipmuc Regional High School in Upton Oct. 10-11. There, they helped register approximately 40 students.
Additionally, 80 Nichols students were registered over the course of two events on campus, in the Fels Student Center, Oct. 10 and 17. The Institute for Women’s Leadership at Nichols also assisted in the on-campus registration effort.
The Nichols students represented the College’s Model United Nations (UN) organization, Emerging Leaders Program, International Business Club, and Professor Smith’s political science courses. Nipmuc teacher and Model UN advisor Brian Moloney helped coordinate the voter registration activity, and Upton Town Clerk Kelly A. McElreath stopped by the registration table on Oct. 10.
“As both political science Ph.D.s, Professor Smith and I believe that our current political times call for an energetic democracy,” explained Professor Moore. “We started the effort in my hometown of Upton, since I know the principal and teachers at the high school. We were welcomed with open arms. Having college students promoting voter registration to the high school students is a tremendously effective way to organize the drive. Peer to peer. We faculty and the Upton town clerk stood off to the side, and watched the dynamic interactions among the young people.”
Students were registered onsite, online, using Apple iPads and laptop computers. Nichols first-year student Nicole Chignola of Shrewsbury, Mass., created a QR code that high school students could scan with Snapchat on their smartphones. The code took registrants directly to the Massachusetts voter registration website. Those wanting to register were told to bring their valid state-issued identification card. Nichols students from outside of Massachusetts were also assisted with respect to their home states.
“I was really impressed with the presence of the Nichols students,” said Moloney. “These wonderful young people made a connection with the Nipmuc students. It was great to see the Nichols students walk around the cafeteria and explain the importance of voting.”
It’s vital to register the 18-year-old high school students, because, according to Professor Moore, young people are a major subset of the electorate, and typically have low voter participation.
“When young people vote, they are more likely to do so when they are older,” said Dr. Moore. “Getting young people to vote early is key to raising a new generation of voters. The Nichols College students were excited to do the hands-on work of helping empower other young people. To gather at a high school, in the cafeteria during lunchtime, was the perfect atmosphere, allowing for dialogue and education about the voting process. It was meaningful for all, and fun.”
This young generation has a strong chance of making a powerful impact on the midterms—only if they show up at the polls—pointed out Professor Smith.
“Democrats are winning over younger voters by huge numbers, but as a highly contentious, voter turnout-dependent mid-term election inches closer, there’s a serious question of whether young Democrats will come to the polls,” she said. “In the 2014 midterms, when Democrats lost control of the Senate, only 23 percent of young voters participated, according to the U.S. Census, which considers young voters as aged 18 to 34.
“A recently released poll from the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic conducted in June showed only 28 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 say they are ‘absolutely certain’ they’ll vote in midterms, compared to 74 percent of seniors. There are other surveys with varied results; a recent poll conducted by the Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago found that 32 percent of young voters would certainly vote. Another poll, by Cosmopolitan magazine and Survey Monkey, found that 48 percent of young voters were ‘absolutely certain’ they’d vote in the midterms.”
In terms of academic value for the Nichols students registering their peers to vote, Professor Smith noted that the experience was an excellent first-hand, experiential lesson in the hard work of democracy.
“Nichols College students had to learn the process of registering someone to vote, as well as the challenges of motivating young potential voters to get registered,” she said. “In fact, many of the Nichols College students themselves were not registered, and they worked first to complete their own registrations to prepare for helping high school students. By the time we drove home from the high school, many of them were texting the Massachusetts online voter registration website to friends and family, and helping those individuals register as well. Several of the students are also now reaching out to high schools in their hometowns to see if similar programs are available, or if they can start one going forward.
“They also had to think about why voting is important to them as individuals in order to express the importance to potential high school voters,” added Dr. Smith. “They experienced, first hand, the amount of time, knowledge, and energy it takes to participate in a democratic electoral system.”
Nichols sophomore Euleidys Rodriguez-Rosario said: “It is very important for young people to register to vote, because if we don’t, then we are letting someone else speak for us, and sometimes that is not the best thing. It’s better for us to lead our country to a better, balanced place, rather than having division and internal chaos. Not everything is perfect, but if we have more people, particularly young adults, vote, maybe we can fix problems. Every vote matters.”
The following Nichols College students helped register students at Nipmuc Regional High School and their peers at Nichols:
- MacKenzie Bourgault of Fairhaven, Mass., first-year student;
- Bridget Canavan of Dudley, Mass., a sophomore international business major;
- Nicole Chignola of Shrewsbury, Mass., first-year student;
- Dailaine DosReis of Framingham, Mass., a senior economics major;
- Joseph Lamonica of Everett, Mass., a first-year marketing major;
- Alexandra Masley of Oxford, Mass., a senior international business major;
- Taylor McIntosh of West Babylon, N.Y., a senior finance major;
- Vincent Murphy of Rochdale, Mass., a sophomore economics major;
- Sara Painchaud of Dudley, Mass., a first-year management major;
Euleidys Rodriguez-Rosario, a sophomore;
- Rachel Rowe of Webster, Mass., a first-year management major;
- Javon Scarlett of Marlborough, Mass., a senior psychology major;
- Peter Shoemaker of Old Lyme, Conn., a sophomore international business major;
- Kelvin Vasquez of Silver Spring, Md., a first-year marketing major;
- Noah Villella of Berlin, Conn., a sophomore economics major and political science minor.
Lorraine U. Martinelle is director of public relations and social media at Nichols College.
— Erika CorneliusSmith (@nicholsdrsmith) October 17, 2018
— Erika CorneliusSmith (@nicholsdrsmith) October 10, 2018
Hey @Nichols_College Bison! Stop by FELS Student Center to see #psci me, @IWL_nichols @NicholsSGA and MOD – Get registered to #vote #firstweregisterthenwevote @splconcampus Did I mention we have stickers and buttons?!? pic.twitter.com/pQqIMYYTk9
— Erika CorneliusSmith (@nicholsdrsmith) October 10, 2018