This summer and fall Campus Vote Project is writing profiles of colleges and universities and their efforts to educate students about voter registration, casting a ballot and developing democratic engagement. It is our hope that other schools can use these profiles and the activities featured on these campuses to help develop program for their own students. These campuses are a part of the Voter Friendly Campus designation project offered by CVP and NASPA.
The representative from Binghamton was the first person I interviewed to discuss civic engagement initiatives. Needless to say, I was nervous beginning the interview. In hindsight, there was no need to be. I was almost immediately at ease whe n interviewing the representative. Out all the initiatives discussed during the interview, Binghamton’s commitment to ease the voting process for students shined through in each of them.
SUNY Binghamton’s Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) works to address any problems students face during the registration process. One issue students encountered when trying to register on-campus was having their registration request denied due to entering their on-campus mailing address incorrectly on the registration form. Binghamton’s CCE collaborated with the local Broome County board of elections to develop a pre-populated registration form that any student residing on campus can use in place of the traditional New York voter registration form. On this modified form, the on campus address for each is filled in for the student. These pre-populated forms shortened the time required to register, and reduced the number of rejected student forms to virtually zero. A coalition composed of student groups and national organizations holds regular registration drives in popular student areas like the student union. These drives have been very effective, registering over 2,000 students in five years according to a university official.
Together with the local board of elections, the CCE has made sure that students’ experience at the poll is quick and painless. Although any student who registers using their on-campus address votes at a polling location located conveniently on-campus, the campus itself is split between three different precincts. This could have caused problems on election days if students who registered using their on-campus address didn’t know which precinct they belonged to. SUNY Binghamton eliminates this possible source of confusion by organizing the polling book according to the last name of the student. Each student is then directed to their correct district at the polling place. These combined efforts have had great results. In the most recent election cycle, lines were shorter and voter turnout was higher. At the campus polling location voter turnout was 74%, far above the county turnout of 40%.