As the 2020 election draws near, Bates students have been actively attempting to increase awareness regarding voter registration and participation. Student-athletes have been particularly involved in voting initiatives around campus, partnering with Bates Votes and the Harward Center, to create the initiative #BobcatsAllIn to inspire student-athletes to vote.
#BobcatsAllIn has slowly become recognized across campus as the election initiative has picked up steam. With the election just seven days away, Bates Athletics and the Harward Center are determined to use the time we have left to make one final push to get as many Bates community members to vote as possible.
Still, we must not forget Bates’ previous struggles with getting out to vote. Over the past several months, I have been interested in learning more about how Bates has ranked in comparison to the other NESCACs in terms of voter registration and voting rates. After each election, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) gives each NESCAC school a report based on how they did in terms of voter registration, voting rate, and voter turnout in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity.
What was most shocking about the numbers is how far behind Bates is in terms of voter turnout. According to the NSLVE report, Bates suffered a small decline in voter registration from 2012 to the 2016 election, from 71.3% to 71.0%. Furthermore, voter turnout at Bates in 2016 was considerably lower in comparison to other NESCAC institutions. Bates ranked 9th in the NESCAC for the 2016 general election with a turnout rate of only 43.5%.
Now, what has been the response this year, and what has the Bates community done to help spread the word to vote? Starting in the summer, several Bates student-athletes partnered with Bates Votes and the Harward Center to improve the overall voter turnout on campus.
This year has been unprecedented in terms of support and advocacy for voting participation initiatives. Specifically, through the work of organizations such as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), some athletic teams have successfully reached 100% voter registration. Teams such as Women’s Cross Country, Mens’ Soccer, Mens’ Lacrosse, and Women’s Rowing have been at the forefront of voting participation on campus. Additionally, both SAAC and the athletic department are coming up with several election program initiatives for this upcoming week to motivate as many student-athletes as possible to vote.
Speaking to Peggy Rotundo, Harward Center Director of Strategic and Policy Initiatives gave me insight into her desire for Bates to improve its voter turnout rate. “I am super excited about the support that Bates Athletics has provided in helping to get all eligible students out to vote. Team captains have really stepped up to the plate to engage their teammates,” she said. “If we keep up this effort, we will beat Colby and Bowdoin in the official NESCAC Votes Challenge!”
Additionally, I spoke with Assistant A.D. for student-athlete Services & Internal Operations, Jessica Duff, as she has played a pivotal role in organizing this election initiative. Duff told me about her observations of other student-athletes around the country participating in the same voting initiatives as Bates. She emphasized how she hopes that the initiative will be the beginning of more awareness of the issues that impact the Bates campus and communities.
“Student-athletes across the country have expressed a desire to increase their civic engagement at local and national levels, and the athletes at Bates are no exception,” she shared. “I have been incredibly inspired by our team voting captains and other students across campus who are not only making it their mission to get as many people registered to vote as possible but are also identifying creative ways to be civically engaged, especially during a time when voter suppression is a concern across our country.
“I hope the #BobcatsAllIn initiative is only the beginning of a collective effort to make a difference in our communities and to educate ourselves and one another about the issues that will affect us for years to come,” she continued.
Finally, I spoke with Mary Corcoran ‘22, who has been a major source of information for student-athletes about voting registration and has been part of the effort to track progress with how many have voted.
“Coming together with administrators in the athletics department, as well as team voting captains in collaboration with BatesVotes has been really great. Voting plans are really essential to hold students accountable to cast their ballot and the most likely person a student will listen to is not a stranger on social media, but their own friends and teammates,” Corcoran explained.
“By using the super-strong networks already established within teams, I hope that Bates athletes will hold each other accountable and all go out and vote this election if they haven’t already.”
It has been powerful to see student-athletes from all sports teams come together to support #BatesAllIn and watch the momentum grow. But, the work is not over yet. Please follow @bates_saac, @gobatesbobcats, @batesvotes to find out more information on how you can support election initiatives on campus. Go vote!