For Americans, including college students, the 2016 presidential election has been incredibly polarizing. However, this perceived tension does have a silver lining—this past election was not just a competition between two opposing sides but for most Brandeis students, an opportunity to exercise their right to vote for the first time.
Given the polarizing nature of the voting process, many students felt energized and motivated to have their voices heard. Jacob Edelman ’18, president of Brandeis Democrats, emphasized the importance of student voter turnout.
Throughout the year, Edelman helped encourage student voters by working with organizations such as MassPIRG and reminding friends via social media to vote. The Brandeis Democrats also helped to “coordinate with the library voter registration efforts for absentee voting days.”
Individual students who Edelman helped did seem to have difficulty with the voting process. For example, Edelman said that “the challenge is people who aren’t registered but also feel slightly not confident about registering.” Asked about what could be done to improve the voting process, Edelman had the following assessment: “I would like there to be a club on campus that solely centered around the act of voting. The organization’s responsibility would be registering students to vote and regular student voting drives.”
Edelman also helped to organize transportation for Brandeis students to polling places. “In my work on the Student Union I got a van owned by Brandeis to transport students to and from the polling places between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. on election day.” Furthermore, Edelman hopes to “pass these responsibilities onto others students or to a club that would be able to carry on the job year to year.”
Edelman also mentioned the importance of voting. “I think that it is important no matter who you are supporting that you do go out and vote because that’s the point of the democracy that you live in.” Voting is a crucial action to take, especially during this election. Jonas Singer ’17 agreed, “I think it is very important to vote, especially in an election as contested as this one.”
Many Brandeis students do not live in Massachusetts and therefore needed to vote using an absentee ballot, including Jasmine Qi ’20 from California and Micah Pickus ’20 from North Carolina. Luckily, the campus mailroom made it easy for student voters to send in their ballots.
Massachusetts residents like Minnie Norgaisse ’19 were able to vote in person. “I took the train up to Shirley where I live, and I took the train right back,” recalled Norgaisse. Certainly, Brandeis’ proximity to the commuter rail and the Boston T lines made voting easy for Brandeis students from Massachusetts, at least in the eastern portion of the state.
Visiting polling places was an especially popular voting method for students registered in state, such as Brianna Urena ’20 who “went to a polling place near Brandeis.”
Given that some students are first-time voters, various challenges were felt during the voting process. Qi, for example, found difficulty in her mail-in ballot: “If you want to mail in you have a deadline. That was kind of difficult.”
Other students though felt that the process was very effortless and without many problems. “The process was really easy. I was in and out within five minutes,” said Brandon Muston ’20.
Muston further commented that his town did “a really good job” in helping make the whole voting process very easy by educating prospective voters on voting procedures. Other students like Joelle MarkAnthony ’19 said that, “My town was really helpful in helping people my age through the process. They were really helpful and would instruct you on what you were doing.” Likewise, Singer commented, “It wasn’t difficult. I just filled out the absentee ballot and brought it to the mailroom.”
Some students were even surprised by how comfortable the entire voting process was. According to Urena, who is a first-time voter in the presidential election, “It wasn’t as strict as I believed it to be either, because when I walked in I asked if I needed my license and they said that I just needed to give my name.”