Student rates

Student organizations rally ahead of midterm elections – The Williams Record

Large banners reading “VOTE” were placed on the columns of Chapin Hall as part of EphVotes’ efforts to encourage higher voter turnout among College students. (Luke Chinman/The Williams Disc)

As Election Day on November 8 approached, Jesse Schumann ’25 noticed an increase in the number of students visiting the EphVotes table during luncheons at the Paresky Center. “Every day the deadlines get closer and I think there’s more urgency,” he said of students’ sentiment about the upcoming election.

Schumann is the president of EphVotes, the College’s voter outreach organization and one of the many ways students have mobilized around the upcoming midterm elections.

Unlike the majority of student groups that organize around electoral politics, however, EphVotes is non-partisan and focuses solely on improving access to voting. “EphVotes was founded because the population of Williams College had a rather absurdly low rate [voter] registration and turnout,” Schumann explained. “EphVotes exists to make voting as easy as possible for people.”

With the midterm elections just weeks away, EphVotes has sprang into action, helping students register to vote and request mail-in ballots, as well as providing envelopes and stamps for students to send ballots to their local election offices.

“There’s definitely a wide range of interactions that I have with people,” Schumann said. “Sometimes it takes 10 to 15 minutes [to help] someone who has never voted before and doesn’t even know where to start.

As a program under the Center for Learning in Action (CLiA), EphVotes has been able to work with the College administration to ensure that its message about the importance of voting reaches the widest possible audience. On October 17, President Maud S. Mandel wrote to students about the importance of voting in a campus-wide email, encouraging them to “take advantage of this wonderful service” that EphVotes offers. CLiA Director Paula Consolini, who is a staff adviser for EphVotes, also connected the organization with the College’s social media team for a takeover of the College’s official Instagram page. There, EphVotes board member Rachel Schmidt ’25 reiterated the importance of participating in the midterm elections.

Beyond EphVotes, students have also mobilized through partisan organizations, both at the College and in the local community.

College Democrats, a student political advocacy group, focused its efforts on races in the New England area. “During election season, almost everything we do is contact campaigns, get people to canvass, make phone calls, host candidates — those kinds of things,” the co-chairman of the elections said. College Democrats, Carlos Hernandez Tavares ’25.

Hernandez Tavares has specifically focused his campaign efforts on New York’s 19th congressional district, which borders much of western Massachusetts. Hernandez Tavares said he considers the district “probably one of the most competitive races in the entire New England region.”

In the week leading up to Election Day, College Democrats plan to hold a “week of service,” with campaign events dedicated to a different candidate each day, including Pat Ryan, the Democratic nominee for District NY-19. . This will include both door-to-door and phone or text banking opportunities to help elections beyond New England, Hernandez Tavares said.

University Democrats also recently hosted Paul Mark, the Democratic candidate in the local Massachusetts State Senate race, to speak to students. “It was really great, because he talked about the importance of advocacy, and then we signed up for our survey,” Hernandez Tavares said. The event, he said, invigorated club members to become more involved in the campaign events they planned.

The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) does not intend to endorse specific candidates in the upcoming election, said YDSA board member Emily Axelrod ’25. “Our goal is not so much electoralism as material action,” she said.

The organization, however, worked alongside the Berkshires Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) to support organizing efforts in favor of Ballot Question 1, a Massachusetts tax proposal on annual income over $1 million. intended for transportation and education, and Ballot Question 4, which would leave in effect a Massachusetts law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses despite their immigration status. YDSA encourages its members to attend canvasses in North Adams and Pittsfield organized by the DSA of Berkshires for these ballot measures, Axelrod said.

Unlike the College Democrats and YDSA, the Society for Conservative Thought (SCT), an intellectual organization for discussing conservative ideology, is less focused on voter mobilization efforts. “We exist primarily to be a place where conservative students or any student who is interested in conservative ideas can voice their opinions,” said Will Howe ’25, club president.

Ahead of Election Day, that meant TBS meetings were largely devoted to discussions of the midterm election races. “Our topics, for example, will be what we think of the Arizona Senate race, what we think Republicans are doing poorly in Pennsylvania, [or] what we think of Trump-backed candidates,” Howe said.

Schumann noted how conversations surrounding different types of elections influence voter turnout. “It’s like everyone is just talking about the presidential election,” he said. “I think it’s easier to vote in [presidential election] years because that’s just what’s on people’s minds.

For Schumann, however, the midterm elections are still extremely important. “Things that you can really have a say in and that really affect your daily life are [local] elections.”