Democracy is upheld because it fosters inclusivity for a population to participate in electing government officials and representatives but sadly its value lacks a certain allure to some. According to the Pew Research Center, the 2016 Presidential elections had a voter turnout of around 55 percent, this number is less than that of the 2008 election cycle and a lower turnout compared to other developed democracies. Therefore for the Westchester County General election voter turnout was very much prioritized.
On Wednesday Nov. 1., 2017 the Student Government Association in conjunction with The Westchester County Links incorporated hosted a campus-wide Voter Education Forum bordering on the week before the midterm election to raise awareness and participation.
The event was a non-partisan seminar to educate students about the voting process and issues important to the election process.
Geared toward student education, this event was held with the hopes of increasing the voter participation across the campus community and the greater Westchester county as a whole. To ensure that there is a successful election conducted, there was a panel with individuals versed in policies, voter registration, and the constitution.
The first speaker was Dr. Betty Campbell of the Westchester County Commissioner of Jurors, who discussed Jury Service: Rights, Responsibilities and the Privilege of serving. Jury duty is a constitutional responsibility, as The New York State Judiciary Law states that all litigants have the right to juries selected from a fair cross section of the community and that all eligible citizens shall have both the opportunity and obligation to serve.
Dare Thompson President of the League of Women Voters of New York State, was the second panelist and spoke on the topic Should New York hold a Constitutional Convention? You help decide! The New York State Constitution Mandates that every 20 years voters be presented with the ballot question Should There be Convention to Revise the Constitution and Amend the same? This is a pivotal moment as voters are tasked with decision of changing the constitution and as such should be properly educated on the weight of their vote as well as its importance.
The third and final panelist was Reginald A. Lafayette, Democratic Commissioner of the Westchester County Board of Elections who spoke on the topic Rights, Responsibilities, and the Privilege of Voting. Lafayette’s office is tasked with electoral registration, compliance and ensuring an overall transparent election.
“Voter education is the aim of the event, students should become knowledgeable and participate in the public voice on issues important to them to include; the allocation of county funds and federal funds such as the pell grant,” said President Belinda Miles on the event. “Involvement in the electoral process is very, very important”
“One of the best things about WCC is being able to hear intelligent people speak on what they are passionate about, it is great to enlighten myself and give that chance to others. Voting is something that is very important but is not really talked about and discussed as much as it should,” said event moderator and SGA Vice President Ryan Dwyer.
Registered voters were able to cast their ballots in the general election for local offices as well as the Constitutional Convention on Tuesday November 7, 2017.