This article is the first in a Clerk Special Edition on politics, free speech, and the election at Haverford. We will be releasing new articles every day this week.
Haverford College, as a part of Delaware County, could play a critical role in the presidential election this year – but only if students show up to the polls.
“I think we would consider students and Haverford students to be fairly engaged and educated and we’re really aiming to do a better job of giving people the opportunity to get out there and vote and to be registered to vote,” said Franklyn Cantor ‘12, Special Assistant to the President. In coordination with students, staff, and groups on campus, Cantor has been helping to organize events centered around the election.
According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, conducted by Tufts University, fewer than half of eligible Haverford students voted in the last presidential election, and just 15 percent of the student body voted in the 2014 midterm election. When looking at the data for “registered students who voted,” the numbers are slightly higher: 63 percent of registered students voted in the 2012 presidential election, and about 24 percent of registered students voted in the 2014 midterm election. These numbers do not include non-resident aliens and students under the age of 18 who would be ineligible to vote in the elections.
Although Haverford students fared slightly better than other institutions for voting rates in the 2012 presidential election, that was not the case for the midterm elections. In 2014, Haverford’s voting rate was on par with voting rates at private bachelor’s institutions, though it was about three percentage points below “all institutions.”
Some students and administrators named a few reasons why voter turnout may have been low at Haverford in recent years, including distance – and lack of transportation – to the polls, and the amount of time students have to take out of their day to vote.
“This is just speculative, but I think people don’t go to the polls because they either view voting as an inconvenience – or that their vote somehow doesn’t count,” wrote Ben Horwitz ’17, co-head of the Haverford College Democrats, in a statement [ed. Note: Horwitz is the Associate Editor of The Clerk].
But various students and administrators said that they are hoping to boost these numbers on November 8.
In fact, many organizations on campus are pitching in to increase voter registration and voter turnout. Horwitz said that the Haverford College Democrats, for example, were involved in voter registration efforts and are promoting voting on campus.
Ethan Lyne ’19, co-head of No Labels, a non-partisan group on campus, said that the group also participated in voter registration drives at the Dining Center and at plenary, co-hosted debate watch parties and other events, and is planning a “get out the vote” campaign to get students ready to go to the polls.
But the challenge still is getting students into the voting booths.
“I think that there’s plenty of discussion – especially here at Haverford, people love to talk about politics and current events and everything that they see going on – but it’s really channeling that discussion into something productive,” Lyne said.
Cantor said that he is hoping the College’s efforts will address just that. In addition to planning events centered around the election, the College is organizing transportation to and from the polls on election day.
“All of this stems out of what I would characterize as an underwhelming political engagement in presidential election cycles in the past,” Cantor said.
Horwitz added that the Haverford College Democrats are helping to make transportation to the polls more effective based on student feedback from the primaries when they organized Blue Bus trips to the polls.
“Most of all, there is a lot at stake in this election, and we want to make sure people know that their vote is important,” Horwitz wrote.