Swatties Vote to Have an Impact (Mostly)

As the election quickly approaches, much of Swarthmore’s student body will have the opportunity to vote for the first time. With several voting options — such as absentee ballots, voting in Pennsylvania and not voting at all — students are taking various approaches to voicing their right to vote.

In a survey of 89 random Swarthmore students, 32 students said they would use an absentee ballot to vote in their respective home states, while 43 non-Pennsylvania natives students plan to vote in Pennsylvania. Among the remaining students, three participated in early voting in their home states during fall break, one Swarthmore student is going home to Delaware to vote next week, and 10 students will not vote in the upcoming election.

The most common reason for choosing to vote via an absentee ballot was the desire to vote for state propositions or their state’s representatives in the federal government. This was particularly true for those surveyed from Massachusetts, a state that has a particularly tight Senate race between Scott Brown (R) and Elizabeth Warren (D).

Closely following wanting to vote for their state’s specific elections or issues was that students who are from swing states want to vote in their state’s election.

“I’m in a swing state and Paul Ryan’s district. I owed it to myself to vote against him,” a student from Wisconsin wrote, while Nick Witchey ‘15 cited, “Ohio needs peeps to vote for Obama” as his explanation for choosing an absentee ballot.

Although not as commonly expressed, the other reasons for absentee ballots were laziness, the convenience of mailing in a ballot and home state pride.

“I worked on the Obama campaign in ’08 in Indiana, so my decision to vote with an absentee ballot is more to reassert my support for him because Indiana is voting red,” Danny McMahon ’15 explained.

For those who decided to register to vote in Pennsylvania, however, the rationales were predominantly uniform; 75 percent of students surveyed who said they were voting in Pennsylvania claimed to do so because they thought it would make a bigger impact on the election than voting in their home state would.

“I decided to vote in Pennsylvania because Mississippi is usually pretty definitive in its vote, and my vote would have more impact in a large swing state than a small state from the South,” Uriel Medina ’16 said.

A male sophomore from the predominantly Democratic state of New Jersey used a similar reasoning, saying that he wanted his vote to count for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

First-time voter and New York resident Cecilia Paasche ’16, along with a few other Swarthmore students, expressed the desire to vote in person.

“I wanted the experience of physically voting for the first time,” she said. “I always went inside the booth and voted with my parents, so now I get to do it myself.”

Besides these two relatively common reasons, the remainder of Pennsylvania voters chose their voting method because their parents instructed them to. In general, there was no correlation to students’ home state’s proximity to Swarthmore and whether students chose to vote in their home state or in Pennsylvania.

Half of the students surveyed who will not vote in the upcoming election were too lazy to register to vote; the other half chose not to vote because of a lack of faith in politicians. These students are not the only dubious Swarthmore students. Hope Brinn ’15, who is registered to vote in Pennsylvania, is also cynical of the voting system, which is why she plans to vote in Pennsylvania.

“There’s a [lot] of corruption in Pennsylvania and Delaware County in particular,” she said. “However, I know that gerrymandering will make it difficult for me to have an impact.”

The election takes place next Tuesday, November 6. Swarthmore College’s local polling place is at the Swarthmore-Rutledge School at 100 College Ave.

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