In a typical primary season, college campuses are packed with groups handing out pamphlets on candidates and voting information.
Now with the primary moved to summer and college campuses mostly deserted, the way these groups are now working to reach young voters has changed.
“So what we did with most elections is we would try to offer rides to the polls every hour or so for different students,” Margaret Dener, president of ST. Lawrence College Democrats and a member of the New York College Democrats explained about years past. “So it was easier when we were on the ground and now that the primary was not only moved, but obviously we’re not there, so we’ve been just using social media.”
But this opportunity to focus on something other than school or finals, has really energized young voters according to Bobby Walker, chairman of the New York Federation of College Republicans. Walker says although their outreach has changed and they have more students than ever volunteering.
“There has definitely been an influx in involvement related to students just being cooped up for so long,” Walker explained. “I get texts messages, I get emails, ‘What can I do to get involved.’ For example, right now we are doing a big push in the New York 27 Congressional race out in Western New York ... we’re over now our 5,000 call goal that we had.”
Although college students are younger voters, they have been impacted by the coronavirus and the protests sweeping the state. Dener says she believes college students are looking for leaders who are responding and finding solutions to health and social justice issues in New York.
“Even though we are younger and might not be well versed in economics we kind of see what’s going on and either we like how the state government and national government has handled the pandemic or we don’t,” Dener said. “So I think that’s something that affects all of us.”
Walker says that for many of the college Republicans he has spoken to, what they are looking for in a candidate pertains to their future. The main issues they are hoping candidates will focus on is job creation and conservative values.
“That idea of freedom of speech is a huge issue on college campuses,” Walker said. “Electing candidates who support our values in the sense of conservative values, limited government. I think that will always be a tenant of college republicans and republicans in general. So no I don’t think our goals have really shifted more than our methods to attain those goals.”
But getting young people to vote in New York has been challenging. For the past few years, there have been efforts to energize young voters, but in 2018, only 16 percent of youth turned out to vote compared to 31 percent nationally.
The Primary is June 23.