In an election unlike any other in modern history, Northeastern Votes, a nonpartisan coalition of students, faculty, and staff, has been working hard to ensure that everyone who can vote on Nov. 3, does. And they’re making sure people don’t just cast a ballot every four years, but get involved in community politics every year.
“Voting is just the beginning,” says Hannah Nivar, a second-year political science student who leads Northeastern Votes’ communications efforts. “There are so many steps after voting you can take to engage with your community.”
Turnout among eligible student voters at Northeastern was slightly below the national average in 2012, and on par with the national average in 2016, according to data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. Northeastern Votes hopes to beat those numbers this year, says co-chair Hilary Sullivan.
One change that may help? The university is working with the City of Boston to convert Matthews Arena into a polling place for Nov. 3.
“Students have long wanted a polling location on campus,” Sullivan says. Now, any students who are registered at the address of their dorm can vote at Matthews. The arena was transformed from an ice rink into a voting location Monday night.
Students living off campus and registered in the nearby Mission Hill or Roxbury neighborhoods (or anywhere else in the Commonwealth) should vote at their assigned locations on Tuesday, which can be found online or by calling the Massachusetts Secretary of State hotline at 1-800-462-VOTE.
Northeastern Votes has also held a number of events on campus to help students register to vote for the first time, or update their registration if they’ve moved.
More than 1,000 students so far have utilized the services to check their registration, update it, or register for the first time, says Sullivan, who is also director of community service and civic engagement programs for the university. Ted Landsmark, distinguished professor of public policy and urban affairs, is also a co-chair of Northeastern Votes.
This election is important, say group organizers, but so is every election—including those that don’t fall within the presidential election cycle. And so Northeastern Votes is working to keep the momentum from this year going.
For Nivar, that means getting students deeply involved in the community on the Boston campus and those that surround the urban hub.
“We have a responsibility to care about our communities,” she says. “There are so many things you can actually influence in local elections, and there’s civic engagement right in our neighborhoods.”
Boston’s mayoral election, for example, which falls in November 2021, is already heating up.
Nivar has helped bring local politicians, including Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, to campus for conversations on issues related to the national election as well as issues at home, such as access to mental health services.
“My goal is to empower people,” Nivar says. “A lot of people at this moment feel so helpless, but there is so much we can do and so many ways to get involved.”