In preparation for the United States midterm elections on Tuesday, November 6, Bennington students, staff, and faculty have been collaborating on voter education and registration programs, encouraging college students and beyond to participate in the democratic process.
Voter Registration Newsletter
Eve Mefferd '20 and Kayla Nicholls '20 publish the monthly Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) student newsletter as part of their mission to develop the CAPA community. Each issue features student and faculty projects, topics covered in CAPA courses, and upcoming events and opportunities.
In the run up to the election, the pair published a Special Voter Registration Issue to capitalize on their significant audience and provide education on voter registration.
"There are a number of barriers between college students and the voting booth, but if we're able to overcome them, we also have great organizing potential," said Mefferd. "The goal of the Special Voter Registration Issue was to eliminate some of those barriers: linking to easy online registration forms, specifying vote-by-mail options, and providing information about local elections and ballot measures. Our hope is that students not only register and make an informed vote, but that they help their family and friends do the same."
In addition to streamlining election resources, the newsletter also broke down key issues at stake and positions up for election, making the sometimes-daunting ballot more accessible.
"We both felt that it's really important for as many people as possible to vote, but the most deterring obstacle is often the confusing step of figuring out who to even vote for," said Nicholls. "The huge berth of information available becomes overwhelming once you try to get some definite voting guides. The voter registration issue was created with the goal of simplifying this process to make voting accessible to people who want to vote, but who maybe haven't been following their local politics."
Voter Registration Drive
Following up on National Voter Registration Day on September 25, Bronwyn Edwards '19 and Daisy Clennon '21 led a voter registration drive on campus. The pair tabled in the dining hall, assisting people with registration and requesting their absentee ballots.
“This past summer, I worked with a California Political Action Committee called Sea Change, where I helped plan events, create media, and build a website to get other young people registered to vote,” said Clennon. “This was a powerful experience for me, and I knew that when I came back to Bennington in September, I wanted to continue my involvement with the midterms.”
"It's a common assumption that young people are politically apathetic and don't have an interest in voting," said Edwards. "But from my experience talking to other students, I got the sense that many people wanted to vote in the midterms, but didn't know how to go about doing it. It was meaningful to relay information that will not only allow people to vote this year on November 6, but also in subsequent elections."
Edwards will also be working as a stringer for the Associated Press on election day to count votes in Bennington.
Assistant Director for Student Engagement Anya Piotrowski is providing stamps for students who need to mail in their absentee ballots. Visit her office in UpCaf 201 for help mailing in your ballot.
In many states, absentee ballots must be postmarked by election day. Check the deadline for your state.
Transportation to Polls
On November 6, the Office of Campus Safety will be providing transportation to the local polls. A special shuttle will run from 7:00-11:00 am to get early voters to the polls. From 11:00 am-7:00 pm, the regular campus shuttle will be available to transport students.
For students who are registered in Bennington (ex. A physical address at One College Drive), you will vote in Bennington at the firehouse on the corner of River and Lincoln. The address is 130 River Street, Bennington, VT.
For students who are registered in North Bennington (ex. A physical address at Paran Creek Apartments), you will vote in North Bennington at the Village Trustees' Office (Train Station). The address is 2 Depot Street, North Bennington, VT.
In her column for Forbes, President Mariko Silver wrote about the importance of day-to-day democratic activities--including, but not limited to, voting.
Shay Totten '91 is the communications director of Rights & Democracy, a Vermont and New Hampshire-based grassroots organization that advocates for justice and improved policies for local communities. Rights & Democracy aims "to bring people together to take action to build healthy communities and make the values of our communities guide the policies of our government."
Development Coordinator Suzanne Caraman has taken on the role of campaign manager for Democratic candidate Nelson Brownell's campaign for state representative in District 1 (Pownal/Woodford). Public access channel CAT-TV recorded the local candidates forum at the Bennington firehouse on October 23.
CAPA Director of Public Policy Programs Brian Campion is also running for reelection in the Vermont State Senate.
If you are registered to vote in Vermont, the Vermont Secretary of State website has information to check your voter registration or absentee ballot status, find your polling location, see a sample ballot, and more. Vermont offers voter registration through election day, November 6.
TurboVote is a national resource for simplifying the voter registration process that also provides election reminders.
Campus Vote Project provides information about why student voters matter, state-specific election guides, and debunks common myths around student voting.
While Bennington College encourages political engagement among its community members, as well as a diversity of perspectives and conversation, the College does not endorse any individual candidates or ballot measures. All opinions mentioned belong solely to the quoted individual.