By Adam Hallenbeck – Sports Editor
When are the primary elections? How do I register to vote? What is an absentee ballot? All of these questions and more are founding pillars to the new campus initiative, Lasell Votes.
Lasell Votes is a nonpartisan initiative working to increase voter engagement, awareness and education both on and off-campus. The goal of this initiative is to help students identify their political voice as a part of who they are and be able to do so in a safe environment.
“We really want to support students to start developing their engagement in the electoral process as a part of their identity,” said Associate Director of the Center for Community-Based Learning Byrd Hughes, who co-founded the campaign. “We want to support the development of that here while it’s somewhat of a safe environment to help them figure out where they fit in the political process.”
According to Library Director and Co-Founder of Lasell Votes Anna Sarneso, Lasell’s political engagement was below average compared to other institutions ac- cording to their NSolve data. NSolve Data is organized at Tufts University, to compare the national collegiate average percentage of registered voters to our university.
Currently, 47 percent of the Lasell stu- dent body is registered to vote, but this statistic includes the consistent voting group of Lasell Village. “The best age group for voter turnout is always 65+ and [Lasell] is no different from that, so they really boost our statistics,” said Sarneso. “Even though we’re at 47 percent, our traditional college-age students vote at a 41 percent rate.”
“We weren’t like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a drastic problem here,’ but once we started talking about it we said there is definitely a need to boost up, not only our voting rates but also our registration rates,” said Sarneso
Since discovering Lasell’s data, the two have worked diligently to expand their project and increase awareness by hosting registration drives and classroom visits to begin the conversation. Their social media campaign, led by first-year Class of 2023 President Michael Woo, has gained traction by helping students understand more of the internal and external resources available to them.
“I’ve been an avid supporter of voting… I saw what good it has done for our community to get out and vote,” he said. Woo has experience with political campaigning, as he assisted the municipal mayoral campaign for Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove, his hometown representative.
With the passing of the deadline to register, their next move is to increase student involvement for their initiative. Lasell Votes is encouraging students to reach out and start creating their own initiatives, such as debate watch parties and other programs.