Ramapo College of New Jersey and The Andrew Goodman Foundation Encourage Civic Engagement on Campus

On September 26th, in coordination with The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s (AGF) Vote Everywhere Campus Team, Ramapo’s Civic & Community Engagement Center hosted National Voter Registration Day, a nationally recognized holiday that celebrates democracy in action by encouraging activism on the part of civic organizations and partnerships to promote voter registration efforts.

National Voter Registration Day is about heightening the awareness around voter registration by reaching an audience of potential voters who may otherwise fail to register, thus allowing everyone the opportunity to vote.  Throughout the country, AGF’s Vote Everywhere Campus Teams organize and host events such as this one to not only register student voters but to encourage local activism and impact a much broader audience through community engagement.

During the primary election in June, voter turnout failed to crest 13 percent of New Jersey’s nearly 6 million voters.  The latest estimates suggest that at best, only 37% of New Jersey voters cast a ballot on November 7th.  According to a recent poll taken by Rutgers University, almost half of all registered voters knew nothing about either candidate in the race.  For several reasons including a lack of media attention and the overwhelmingly exhaustive nature of political turmoil on a national stage, sentiments of apathy reign supreme throughout public perception. Beyond the occasional televised attack ads, there was a massive lack of awareness involving the recent elections at the municipality and state level.

(Left to Right) Ramapo’s Vote Everywhere Ambassador Antonio Navazio and Campus Champion Karen Booth with volunteers Miyah and Gabby at Ramapo College’s Laurel Courts.

Although today’s politics seem to focus on inflammatory rhetoric and deepening partisan divides, voting remains the cornerstone of American democracy.  Therefore, voter engagement, or the lack thereof, is not a topic of partisanship, complacency, or passivity.  The question then arises about how student populations engage in politics, and what organizations like The AGF are doing to stimulate educated civic engagement.

At Ramapo, Vote Everywhere Campus Champion Karen Booth organized this National Voter Registration Day event in coordination with Ramapo’s Civic & Community Engagement Center to raise awareness on campus. She says that “by adding a component of fun and entertainment,” the team hopes to show that voting can be fun and encourage more students to participate.

Claudia Wetzel, sophomore and one of Ramapo’s Vote Everywhere Ambassadors, recognizes the impact of AGF’s Vote Everywhere program and hopes to increase civic engagement among her peers on campus.  “I believe that young voters are a powerful force in democracy, as they bring fresh perspectives and new outlooks on many important topics.”  She passionately feels that young voters are unique problem-solvers that are “looking for solutions that will produce benefits in the long run.”

Team Leader Antonio Navazio, a senior, also realizes the potential and implications of registering a young generation of voters in America.  “There are active, lively and dedicated people in this demographic but they are thoroughly underrepresented at the polls,” he says.  “Getting these young adults informed, educated, properly registered, and to the polls can have a very impactful effect on elections here in New Jersey.”

AGF recognizes that young people ages 18-29 are amongst the most under-represented voter groups in the United States, yet their values have the power to transform our nation.  By partnering with nearly 50 colleges and universities across 21 states through its Vote Everywhere program, AGF hopes to inspire the next generation of educated, life-long citizens.

Together, the efforts of AGF and colleges such as Ramapo result in a lasting impact on our nation’s youth as they learn the importance of civic engagement.  Moving forward, voter registration is only the beginning of the effort of encouraging lifelong commitments to participatory democracy locally and across the country.

About the Author

Matthew Stevens is a Communications and Development Intern at The Andrew Goodman Foundation. He is a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey majoring in Communication Arts with a focus on Global Communications and Media Studies. As a highly active student, Matthew developed a passion for the media and politics, and how the two are perceived throughout the United States. During his senior year, he managed several campus events regarding sustainability, which promoted climate change awareness and encouraged civic engagement for policy change. Previously, Matthew worked as a political volunteer for Phil Murphy’s New Jersey gubernatorial campaign as well as promoting get-out-the-vote efforts in his community.