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Friday, Dec 8, 2023

With Easy Voter Access, Students Opted to Vote Local

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Midterm elections historically see far lower turnout than presidential elections, especially among college students. But this year’s midterms, at least in Middlebury, represented a deviation from that trend: 67 more students cast their votes in the town of Middlebury this midterm election than during the 2016 presidential election, a 30 percent increase. 

Students gave many reasons for deciding to vote in Vermont instead of sending an absentee ballot back home. Some students, such as Paul Flores Clavel ’22, cited their involvement in local politics as the reason they decided to cast their vote in Addison County. 

“I’ve been getting to know more about Vermont politics and in general I just feel like I’d vote here where I’ll be living for the next few years,” said Clavel, who is from New York City. “New York will definitely vote the way it has in the past but Vermont seems to be really crucial right now so I decided to express my voting power here.”

Some international students with U.S. citizenship also voted in Vermont because they do not have another domestic address where they can register.

Others voted after attempting to vote back home and experiencing problems with the absentee ballot system. Many never received their absentee ballots in the mail, like Maddie Ledet ’22. 

“I actually wanted to vote in Georgia where I’m from, since we had a pretty historic election going on for governor, but unfortunately my absentee ballot did not come in so I did same-day registration for the election in Vermont,” she said. 

Other students did receive their ballots but were not able to return them in time. Langley Dunn ’19 discovered that her Oklahoma ballot needed to be notarized and received back home by election day at 7 p.m. in order to count. Knowing she would not be able to send it back in time, she decided to register to vote same-day in Vermont. 

Dunn and Ledet were among many other students who took advantage of the same-day registration option. This is the first year that Vermont has offered same-day voter registration, and over half of the students who voted in town registered on Election Day. Students comprised almost 70 percent of all same-day registrants in Middlebury. 

Ashley Laux, program director at the college’s Center for Community Engagement, said this may be in part because MiddVote, a nonpartisan student organization dedicated to encouraging students to vote, emphasized the same-day voting option on campus. 

“Since many states have earlier voter registration deadlines, if a student who is an eligible voter was unable to register to vote in their home state and missed that registration deadline, MiddVote volunteers informed them that they could still register to vote in Vermont and vote here in Middlebury,” she said.

The Town Clerk’s office released an election participation report on Nov. 15. The Campus analyzed voting records for the town of Middlebury in 2018, and compared them to records from 2016. The Campus counted all voters who listed “Middlebury College or “14 Old Chapel Road” as either their legal or mailing address as “students” for this analysis. This method does not account for students who live off campus and may have used another address.