For Temple Student Government, spreading the word about the importance of voting has always been on the agenda.
“It’s always been something that [Temple] Student Government has tried to focus on,” Student Body President Ray Smeriglio said. “It’s always at the forefront of every election season, even if it’s an off-year … we always try to promote it as much as possible just to make sure students have an idea that there’s something going on, and they have an opportunity to voice their concerns.”
Several responsibilities of this “get-out-the-vote” initiative are handled by Matt Hayden, a senior political science major and TSG’s director of government affairs. Hayden said much of his work involves collaborating with the city’s government affairs and commissioner’s offices, as well as engagement groups on Main Campus.
Hayden said there are three main parts of TSG’s initiative: voter registration, education and ultimately getting people to the polls. One of TSG’s specific goals is to register incoming freshmen. Hayden said the organization brings voter registration forms to freshman dorms and stations around Main Campus in order to help streamline the process.
In terms of education, TSG released a guide last week that directs people to nonpartisan sources that show the political races, the candidates’ stance on issues and where the polls are.
Hayden said much of the workload falls on him, but added that the experience of making the registration and voting process easier for Temple students and the surrounding community is rewarding.
One of Hayden’s biggest concerns is with those who don’t believe their vote will make a change in the political process. He said he combats this opinion by trying to “personalize” each individual’s vote, illustrating the issues on a more local level of politics.
“Your vote is your voice,” Hayden said. “When a ton of those votes come together, different people get elected. Especially on a college campus, it’s very easy to get group mobilization of a vote which will have an impact.”
“That is something that people don’t really realize,” Hayden added. “They don’t realize how powerful their vote is.”
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Democrat whose second congressional district includes Temple, is up for re-election this Tuesday. Democratic State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas is running unopposed for a seat to represent Pennsylvania’s 181st legislative district. Along with the governor’s race, Hayden said these districts and other smaller elections throughout the city are ones that Temple students and the surrounding community should care about.
“Your Congressmen and senators are people you really do go to when you need something,” Hayden said. “Those are the [races] that don’t get a lot of play or press time … every [race] should have a light cast on it.”
The number of voters increased in the second and 181st districts between the 2012 and 2010 general elections. When President Obama ran for re-election in 2012, 129,924 and 8,729 more citizens voted in the second Congressional district and 181st state legislative districts respectively, in comparison to the 2010 general election. Traditionally, presidential elections draw more voters than midterm elections.
Looking at Temple’s role, Smeriglio said he uses his new position of TSG president to “lead by example,” and the overall message of this “get-out-the-vote” initiative is to influence Temple students to be active in the surrounding community.
“You should be involved in your community,” Smeriglio said. “Whether that’s community service … being politically active … or having your voice be heard through Temple administration and Temple Student Government, we just want to provide as many avenues for students to be as active as possible.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @Steve_Bohnel