BY ANNAMARIE WIRE ’22
On Tuesday, voters across the country flocked to the polls to cast their ballots in the midterm elections. Highly anticipated and politically divisive, these midterms have seen historically high voter turnout.
After the results of the 2016 election, low turnout, especially among young voters, has been cited as a reason for Donald Trump’s presidential victory in 2016. This year, the Mount Holyoke College Democrats have been leading the charge to combat low voter turnout and encouraging eligible students to vote.
“We’ve been very busy this midterm season,” said Lily James ’21, president of the College Democrats. “We’ve been tabling outside of Blanchard two nights a week for two hours each night, we printed out absentee ballot request forms from every state and had computers open for people to register online.”
In James’ estimates, the College Democrats have sent out over 250 absentee ballot request forms, used over 400 stamps and helped more than 400 students cast their votes.“Our goal was [to help] three quarters of eligible domestic students. I think Mount Holyoke got close to 1000 students in general voting. I would be surprised if we didn’t,” said James with a smile.
In addition to tabling, the College Democrats also provided rides to the polls in South Hadley for early and general voting, a service that Grace Wheeler ’18 said was underutilized during the 2016 presidential elections. “I volunteered to drive people in an MHC fleet van to polls during the last presidential election and not one single person used the service,” said Wheeler. “I’m not sure how the other shifts did, but I got the understanding it was generally low turnout for the ride service.” According to James, the College Democrats organized five trips to the South Hadley polls on and leading up to Election Day this year.
“Overall, it’s been incredibly gratifying work, to have people come up and say ‘Oh my gosh, thank you so much, I never would have done this on my own’ or ‘The form is confusing, can you help me?’” said James. “It’s been a real wake-up call to how non-comprehensive and confusing voting processes are.”
According to Adam Hilton, a visiting politics professor at Mount Holyoke, it can be incredibly difficult to vote in the United States for a wide variety of reasons. “Some states require voters to register early, some states let you register the day of the election. It can be a labyrinth to navigate, and organizing people to help guide you through that labyrinth is an important step to take,” said Hilton.
James’ estimate of a high voter turnout at Mount Holyoke seemed to be confirmed during Tuesday’s election watch party, hosted by the College Democrats. Students cheered and booed as live updates from CNN were broadcast on the projector, refreshing their laptops to watch polling results come in. The College Democrats provided pie and facilitated a game of election trivia as the night went on.
“It wasn’t neutral, it wasn’t not politically affiliated,” Gabrielle Kerbel ’20 said about the watch party. “If you went, you went to support the [Democrats]. It says a lot about the political climate on campus [...] when you have a large political event, in this public space, [hosted by a] politically affiliated group.”
Kerbel said the event made her feel like “part of a community.” It was exciting to watch the results come in, “because it was like cheering for sports teams,” she said. “We were all rooting for the same people to win.”