Blair and Ghazal: Vote Today

by Spencer Blair and Paul Ghazal | 11/3/14 7:36pm

A recent “Trending @ Dartmouth” feature in The Mirror asked which type of midterms inspire greater student apathy: academic or political. We appreciate the pun, but realistically, the answer is almost certainly political. Dartmouth students put ample energy into their academic responsibilities, extracurricular pursuits and interpersonal relationships, often leaving little time for political engagement — not even voting. In 2010, only roughly one in five eligible New Hampshire voters under the age of 29 exercised their right to vote. As the president of Dartmouth College Democrats and vice president of Dartmouth College Republicans, we urge students to avoid replicating this statistic by both voting today and encouraging others to do so.

Many New Hampshire candidates and other high-profile politicians from both major parties have visited campus throughout this election cycle. These candidates and other elected officials have universally emphasized one major point: as a voting bloc, Dartmouth students can and will make the difference in close elections. For example, in 2010, former Rep. Charlie Bass ’74, R-N.H., defeated current Rep. Anne McLane Kuster ’78, D-N.H., by 3,550 votes, fewer than the total number of Dartmouth students. Even more strikingly, in a special election for New Hampshire Executive Council this past March, former State Senator Joe Kenney defeated Grafton County Commissioner Mike Cryans by just 1,266 votes. This, too, was an election in which very few Dartmouth students voted.

Beyond the possibility of influencing close elections, students must recognize how low turnout affects policymaking. Voting at higher rates will present the student bloc as a force to which politicians must be more accountable, resulting in greater urgency placed on issues that most directly affect us — including the cost of higher education and the long-term solvency of Social Security. Currently, politicians tend to push off the latter issue with the intent of appeasing older Americans, who are more reliable in their voting patterns, at the expense of future generations. And in 2011, the New Hampshire legislature slashed funding for higher education by 45 percent, resulting in over 200 layoffs at New Hampshire’s universities. Regardless of one’s personal feelings toward these cuts, it’s a problem that the politicians who made the decision were elected essentially without student votes, because the decision was made without student input.

Students often write off midterm elections because there is no presidential race on the ballot, but off-year elections are just as important in framing the nation’s policy direction as presidential elections. With several competitive U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor and state legislature races on the ballot throughout the country (including New Hampshire), students have a civic duty to help elect the candidates that they feel best represent their personal and political interests now more than ever.

Misinformation is a common barrier to student voting, so we would like to set the record straight. All students who attend college in New Hampshire have the legal right to vote in the state, without any effect on a student’s residency, health insurance or car registration. For students who would prefer to vote in their home states, many can do so in absentia depending on that state’s particular laws. New Hampshire has same-day registration, so students can register at the polls today, and all they need to do so is a Dartmouth ID. The polling station for Hanover is at Hanover High School, and students can access free van rides to the polls outside Robinson Hall at any point between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Media pundits and political establishment figures alike insist during every midterm election cycle that college students will not vote — and they are usually right. Dartmouth, let’s make this the year that they are wrong. Grab a few friends, walk over together or hop in a van, and exercise your right to vote today.

Spencer Blair ’17, a staff columnist, is the president of Dartmouth College Democrats, and Paul Ghazal ’17 is the vice president of Dartmouth College Republicans.