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    Sunday, September 25, 2022

    A day to register

    Seniors Hannah Gonzalez, right, and May Kotsen, second from right, of the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy and volunteers with Camels Vote, help students register to vote and request absentee ballots in their home states during National Voter Registration Day Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, outside Shain Library at Connecticut College in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Freshmen Emma Steel, left, of Mendon, Mass., and Zia Quinn, of Westwood, Mass., register to vote in their home state after scanning a QR code during National Voter Registration Day Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, outside Shain Library at Connecticut College in New London. Later they scanned a QR code to request an absentee ballot. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Seniors Tanya Mendoza, left, and Jazmine Silva, right, seated behind the table, of the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy and volunteers with Camels Vote, help students register to vote and request absentee ballots in their home states during National Voter Registration Day Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, outside Shain Library at Connecticut College in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Connecticut College seniors Tanya Mendoza and Jazmine Silva sat outside Shain Library on Tuesday afternoon, flanked by National Voter Registration Day signs and QR codes labeled “Are you registered to vote?” and “Request an absentee ballot here!”

    One student came up to say she’s registered to vote in Minnesota but didn’t know how the absentee ballot systems works. Freshmen registered to vote for the first time. And others could still scan a QR code to take a pledge to vote, as part of a competition with other New England Small College Athletic Conference schools, which Conn won last year.

    Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

    Mendoza and Silva are both PICA scholars (Program in Community Action) through the school’s Holleran Center for Community Action, which organized the National Voter Registration Day effort Tuesday, both outside the library and in the student center.

    “I know the voting process and getting registered can be complicated,” Mendoza said. “I think this is a really good way to make it more simplified or easier to digest.“

    Asked about the biggest issues motivating students to vote, Mendoza pointed to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. With abortion rights left to states, Mendoza said the decision pushed students to learn more about their own state.

    Students who wanted to register to vote, check their voter registration status, or find their voting location were directed to conncoll.turbovote.org. Another QR code went to rockthevote.org/how-to-vote/request-an-absentee-ballot.

    A lot of students request absentee ballots from their home states, though junior government major Emma Pyles said there are some students who register in New London, and the Holleran Center offers rides to the polls.

    Pyles is an ambassador for Camels Vote, a nonpartisan initiative through the Holleran Center to increase civic and political engagement. She got involved her freshman year, inspired by a seminar called Beyond the Ballot.

    Mendoza and Pyles have both taken classes with professor Mara Suttmann-Lea, who this semester is teaching Introduction to American Politics, The Politics of Voting Reforms, and a survey course on elections, campaigns and parties. The professor has focused their research on how local election officials engage youth in voter outreach.

    Suttmann-Lea and Mississippi State University professor Thessalia Merivaki have found in their research that when officials use social media accounts to distribute information about voting, voters ― especially young ones ― are more likely to register, cast ballots and have their ballots counted.

    But fewer than 2% of county election offices had TikTok or Instagram accounts, which are more popular with young voters than Facebook or Twitter.

    Suttmann-Lea gets frustrated when people bemoan that young folks don’t participate, saying campaigns haven’t engaged them as much.

    Suttmann-Lea said young people have had the idea that they’re not listened to. But a range of issues have come up in recent years that have served as a tipping point, whether it’s climate change, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, or the “state and health of American democracy,” though Suttmann-Lea noted it’s too early to tell what kind of impact the abortion ruling will have on this election cycle.

    “Youth turnout might lag behind their older counterparts, but it’s still probably going to be pretty high for a midterm election,” Suttmann-Lea said, with some experts expecting it to rival 2018.

    Reminder: There’s a constitutional amendment on the ballot

    Voters in Connecticut can also register to vote or check their voter registration status by visiting vote411.org, registering at myvote.ct.gov/register, or checking their registration at myvote.ct.gov/lookup.

    Also on Tuesday, League of Women Voters of Southeastern Connecticut members shared Vote 411 information at a National Voter Registration Day table at Groton Public Library, though Irene Weiss said most people who stopped by were already registered.

    “We see an awful lot of people who say, ‘I haven’t missed an election in the last 40 years,’” she said.

    Weiss said people could also find out where their polling place is, which may have changed because of redistricting. Another change since the last midterms is that Connecticut residents with felony convictions who are on parole can now vote.

    She also said people may not know that if they moved to a different address in the same town, they have to re-register, and she doesn’t think a lot of people know they can register to vote online.

    The organization used Monday as an opportunity to inform people about the constitutional amendment on the ballot in November which reads: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for early voting?”

    According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Connecticut is one of only four states that doesn’t offer in-person voting before Election Day, along with Alabama, Mississippi and New Hampshire.

    The League of Women Voters was also at the Public Library of New London and the Waterford Public Library on Tuesday, and will be doing voter registration at Three Rivers Community College Oct. 17 to 18.

    e.moser@theday.com

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