The meeting began with pizza and modern dance music in the Bowen Thompson Student Union theater and ended with talks about the student body’s voting habits – it was an Undergraduate Student Government meeting unlike any other.
USG held its weekly meeting a floor lower than normal in the BTSU for its voter engagement town hall meeting. Though the senators usually meet to talk about housekeeping measures and encourage student involvement during general meetings, the latter was the primary focus Monday night.
USG Vice President Marcus Goolsby began the meeting with a mission statement: “Obviously, we want to encourage all eligible students … to vote.”
The meeting was organized by the officers of the organization in conjunction with BGSU Votes and the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a group out of New Jersey. Both organizations work to be non-partisan encouragers of young adult voter turnouts, which have been historically low.
“Yay, go democracy,” Harrison Carter, the night’s main presenter, sarcastically said as he showed data from the 2014 midterm election: only about 12 percent of the national student population voted and less than 8 percent of the University’s 18- to 21-year-olds cast a ballot.
Carter, the USG academic affairs chair, is also part of both the Andrew Goodman Foundation and BGSU Votes, which prepared him to talk about the school’s voting issues and encourage students to “break barriers” toward voting itself. He strongly recommended people, of any and all political designations, vote in the upcoming midterm elections for positions such as Ohio’s federal senators and the state governor.
Carter hopes to secure about 25 percent of the student vote in the next election through his organizations’ efforts.
He first described the process by which interested students can register to put in a successful ballot, informing the audience about BGSU Votes’ upcoming presence by the Education Building and the BTSU to offer registration during National Voter Registration Day Sept. 25.
Carter also detailed the timeline for people to vote in Ohio: Oct. 6 is the final day to register, Oct. 10 is the first day to vote in-person early (at the Wood County Courthouse), Nov. 3 is the last day absentee vote applications will be accepted and Nov. 6 is the actual voting day.
In addition to deadlines, Carter gave tips about the process, saying voters have the right to vote on election day no matter how close to closing time they arrive.
He also said BGSU Votes offers different services to encourage voting, like driving interested students to a voting encouragement meeting in Perrysburg.
However, even with these services and information sessions, he said voter turnout could still be improved, not just in general but for specific races.
Multiple members of USG agreed with Carter about the importance of the Ohio gubernatorial race, which will see a brand new officer regardless.
USG President Hannah Cubberley said, “This governor race is more interesting than (previous ones),” which she added was largely because of the possibility of a new governor’s policies differing from John Kasich’s familiar government. Though people could expect what he would do for the state’s education budget or policy plan, a different governor could bring changes to those areas based on political leanings.
An additional worry is about whether the school’s state-given allowance could grow under a new administration, as Cubberley said the University’s budget is already tight and “we aren’t receiving more money.”
A governor can also choose the chancellor for the state’s higher education department, who oversees the administration of educational processes in Ohio.
Carter said some parts of voter encouragement are challenging nowadays, like combating the notion of voter fraud and its effect on the public.
“There is voter fraud – it does occur,” he said, but countered that the important part of his groups’ responsibilities is to educate people on how to avoid voter suppression.
In response to a question asking how he could encourage those content with the political state of the country to vote, he said, “They should vote with the people still in office” to keep them there.
USG will hold its general meeting next week at 7:30 p.m. in the BTSU. BGSU Votes can be found in the Center for Community and Civic Engagement in University Hall.