After a 2016 election cycle in which only 52.6 percent of Bowdoin students who were eligible to vote actually cast a ballot, Bowdoin Votes, a campus group, is ramping up its get-out-the-vote efforts in advance of the 2018 midterm elections on Tuesday, November 6.
“If you don’t vote, your government will not reflect your interests,” said Archer Thomas ’21, a student volunteer who has done tabling for Bowdoin Votes. “Everybody has a right to vote in either their home state or in the state they go to college.”
Bowdoin Votes was founded in 2016 by Associate Director of the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good Andrew Lardie with the mission of increasing civic engagement among students. This fall, with the help of student volunteers, the group hopes to have their “votemobile” tables present at every campus event that draws a crowd.
State voter registration deadlines are fast approaching, with the earliest, Rhode Island, coming up on October 7. And even if students have already registered, many have to re-register. This is particularly true if they are planning to vote in Maine’s election.
“If you’re voting in-state, because you have changed dorms and Bowdoin is situated in the absolute epicenter of five voting districts, you don’t live in the same voting district in town that you did two years ago. You need to update your registration,” said Lardie.
Students who are registered to vote out of state need to request an absentee ballot. Depending on the state, this either means submitting an online form or mailing in a paper application.
Students can register or request an absentee ballot by visiting one of the votemobile tables, the Mckeen Center or the online Blackboard Bowdoin Votes page under the “Organizations” tab. In any case, Bowdoin Votes will mail any forms for free.
“My goal is to get students to feel like it’s accessible and worth it and important to vote—every single time,” said Lardie.
After the 2016 election, Bowdoin decided to partner with the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, a nonpartisan initiative dedicated to increasing democratic engagement on college campuses across the country. Thanks to ALL IN, Bowdoin was able—for the first time ever—to see how many students actually vote.
“They have found a way to marry anonymous school enrollment information—which is confidential—and publicly available voter rolls and tell you, among the students who are enrolled at your school, how many of them are registered and how many of them have voted,” said Lardie about the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.
From 2012 to 2016, the percentage of students who were eligible to vote and actually voted increased from 38.5 percent to 52.6 percent. For the midterms, Bowdoin has set a goal of 80 percent voter engagement.
Bowdoin Votes will be tabling in Smith Union on National Voter Registration Day, September 25, from at least 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additionally, on Tuesday, October 30, the College is hosting a congressional and gubernatorial debate in Studzinski Hall.