By Abby Lorch | September 19, 2022
American flag waving above UAlbany’s Uptown Campus.
Photo Credit: UAlbany Votes Website / albany.edu/vote
The Washington Monthly College Guide listed the University at Albany among “America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting” on Aug. 28. This special recognition comes as a result of efforts by the university and its organizations to get students involved in democracy.
According to an article by the New York Times, youth voting numbers consistently fall short of average population voting rates across the world. It has long been held that older citizens vote more frequently and consistently than their younger counterparts. However, the national elections of the past four years have provided encouraging evidence to the contrary. Voting among Americans aged 18-24 increased by unprecedented levels in both the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential race, as reported in the Washington Monthly guide.
Ahead of the November midterms, which are forecasted to continue the current surge in youth voter turnout, the Washington Monthly guide examined the reasons for this trend. While large-scale social and political developments are major motivators for youth voting, Washington Monthly highlighted the role that colleges play in promoting civic action. The news organization selected schools based on their registration rates, as well as their transparent disclosure of these numbers and diligent efforts to improve them.
Student-led civic engagement groups, university administrations, and nationwide initiatives are the primary players in campus democracy. To be recognized on this year’s guide, colleges were required to submit reports on their present and future efforts to encourage civic action among students to the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. ALL IN is a national awards program that recognizes colleges for their efforts to increase student voting. Schools also needed to exhibit transparency by making their registration and voting rates (measured by the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement or NSLVE) freely available.
Washington Monthly then ranked qualifying schools based on their registration rates. By this metric, the University at Albany comes in 169th out of 230 recognized colleges. Of these 230 colleges, 144 are public schools, 36 are community colleges, and five are historically Black institutions. Both registration rates and the number of institutions recognized have improved since the organization’s last report.
UAlbany, being located in the capital of New York State, maintains that political engagement by students is a top priority. A number of administrative offices on campus, including the Center for Leadership and Service, are involved in efforts to encourage voting in the UAlbany community. The school has recently seen record student voting levels, due in large part to the work of the UAlbany Votes Team, a non-partisan committee tasked with driving civic participation. Due to its 60-69% voting rate in the 2020 election, UAlbany is labeled a “Silver Campus” by the ALL IN Challenge.
Several student-run organizations on campus aim to supplement the administration’s impact with their own initiatives. Generation Vote, a student organization designed to promote democratic participation at UAlbany, stresses the importance of building upon the University’s existing initiatives.
“While we congratulate the University on this achievement,” GenVote representatives said in a statement to the ASP, “we also want to take this moment to remind everyone that there are still steps that can be taken to elevate UAlbany to the top of the list.”
One of Generation Vote’s major goals is to make Election Day an academic holiday at UAlbany. The GenVote UAlbany Chapter also works with the Civic Action division of the Student Association to mobilize students through special events, advertised on their Instagram page.
“We encourage everyone to not only register to vote, but also get involved in the upcoming election by researching candidates and submitting ballots,” GenVote representatives said.
New Yorkers must register to vote for midterm elections by Oct. 14. The general election will be held on Nov. 8. Citizens can visit the Turbovote and How to Vote websites to complete registration and learn more about the voting process.