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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Stony Brook students show enthusiasm for midterm elections

New York voter registration papers distributed by Stony Brook’s Vote Everywhere group in partnership with the Andrew Goodman Foundation. In a survey of 50 Stony Brook students, 46 said they were registered to vote. ARACELY JIMENEZ/STATESMAN FILE

Ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6, The Statesman randomly surveyed 50 students around campus to get their take on this year’s midterm races. Forty-six students said they were registered to vote and 42 said they plan to vote.

Thirty-one of the students surveyed identified as Democrats, while three of the students identified as Republicans. Four said they were registered as Independents, five had no official party and three chose not to respond.

Almost all students, even the ones who were not registered, said they think voting is an important right.

“It’s the main tool we have to hold our leaders accountable,” David Carlson, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, said. “I find it to be an empowering experience. It’s only one vote, but many elections are very close, especially in the swing district we live in. I want to exercise my ability to influence the process.”

While most agreed upon the significance of voting, there was one student who did not feel the same.

“I feel that my vote doesn’t matter too much, in the end. It’s up to the higher powers,” Samantha Baum, a junior English major, said.

Despite the general enthusiasm students expressed about voting, many were unfamiliar with the candidates running in local elections.

In New York’s 1st congressional district, where Stony Brook University is located, Democratic candidate Perry Gershon is looking to unseat two-term Republican incumbent, Lee Zeldin. Twenty-five students had heard of Gershon and 24 had heard of Zeldin.  None of the students surveyed had any knowledge of the candidates’ platforms.

“I don’t know the candidates yet,” Jamila Khanfri, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, said. “I plan to read up on them when it gets closer [to the election].”

Of the students surveyed, three said they would be voting for Gershon, while zero said they would be voting for Zeldin.

New Yorkers will also vote on the junior Senate seat this election cycle. The incumbent, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, will face Republican challenger Chele Farley. Twenty-eight students had heard of Gillibrand, with some correctly identifying her as a New York senator, while all 50 students had never heard of Farley.

“I have to do some research,” junior computer science major William Braxton said. “I need to look up who’s on the ballot, and, sadly, I haven’t had the time to do it yet.”

Eighteen students including Braxton said they needed to get more information before deciding who to vote for.

Senior economics and information systems double major, Thomas O’Leary, said he didn’t want to rush into making a decision before educating himself on the issues.

“I haven’t really looked into the candidates of the elections, so I don’t think I can make an informed decision,” O’Leary said.

Students also weighed in on what issues matter most to them for the upcoming election, including issues that would turn them away from candidates.

The most common answer was women’s rights, with 13 students giving this as their response. Other notable responses were climate change, education, immigration, each mentioned by five students and the environment, cited by four students.

Stony Brook University’s Center for Civic Justice, whose goal is to support active and engaged students within their communities, has done all it can to ensure students are prepared for the election.

“Our efforts over the past several weeks have been focused on ensuring students have an opportunity and to be well educated and informed about the decisions they might be making when they come out and vote,” Steven Adelson, the co-director of the center, said.

On National Voter Registration Day, the center held an event where they provided students with the opportunity to learn about this year’s ballot. They had over 700 students attend the event, Adelson said.

“In 2016, approximately 53 percent of our students voted in the 2016 presidential election, which is a little bit above the national average for college students. For students who voted on campus, 86 percent turned out,” Adelson said

Adelson is optimistic that this year will mark a change. He hopes young people and college students will turn out to vote.

“Voting is one of the most important ways you can make your voice heard,” he said. “If you have the ability to vote, the eligibility to vote, it’s important that you make your voice heard, not only for yourself, but for those who might not be able to vote.”

This sentiment was echoed by junior biology major Connor Henry.

“There were a lot of people in the 2016 election who put Harambe and other jokes in their ballot, but your vote counts, guys,” Henry said. “Vote.”

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