Civic Engagement Office encourages participation in elections

Midterm elections were just last month, but the Civic Engagement Office is already reviewing its process of getting students involved and thinking about ways to increase participation in the future. The office has a goal of making sure it’s doing everything it can to encourage participation in every election.

“What I think has changed is our awareness about the barriers of voting,” said Civic Engagement Program Director Samantha Hebel. “This year, I really worked on increasing accessibility for our students to have the opportunity to vote. Elections have a huge impact on our society, and it’s the one chance students have to try to elect people to represent their voice.”

The Civic Engagement Office organized several events and initiatives for students, including voter registration events, on-campus early voting, access to local candidates, and shuttles to and from polling locations on Election Day.

New initiatives this year also included paying postage fees for voter-related materials and providing registration and absentee ballot forms for all states. The office is also teaming up with Residence Life to make changes on Cornell’s student IDs.

“Several of us worked with the Linn County Auditor’s Office on adding an expiration date to student ID cards,” said Director of Residence Life Steven Strope. “The expiration date shows that the student is actively enrolled at the college and that this is their current, valid school ID. Subsequently, that makes a student’s Cornell ID an official form of identification if they want to register to vote in Linn County, the day of an election.”

All new student IDs, beginning with fall 2018, will have an expiration date. Students with an ID card from before August 2018 can get an updated card with an expiration date but must pay for a replacement ID with Residence Life. Hebel said the initiative will also help remove barriers for the anticipated 2019 state voter-ID law.

This is just the beginning of the Civic Engagement Office’s work to get students more involved in the voting process. In the future Hebel said she has goals of increasing voter registration, establishing additional educational events, and organizing a campus-wide network focused on getting out the vote.