Area college students help get out the vote on Election Day 

  • Isabella Pina, left, and Isadora De Alpino, University of Massachusetts students, make their way back to the car after voting and receiving a ride from Jack Eccles, a UMass student with UMass Democrats, part of a group offering a service to provide rides to the polls on Election Day. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jack Eccles, a student with UMass Democrats, works on a schedule of who to pick up for a service the group was providing offering rides to the polls on Election Day. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Left, Isabella Pina and Isadora De Alpino, UMass students, walk to the Bangs Center in Amherst after receiving a ride from Jack Eccles, a student with UMass Democrats, who was part of a group offering a service to provide rides to the polls on Election Day. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/6/2018 2:49:42 PM

AMHERST — As voters across the country participate in what many have described as one of the most critical midterm elections in recent memory, college-age students were taking the reins to get voters to the polls and cast ballots on Election Day.

On Tuesday, UMass Democrats, working with the John Page for Town Council campaign, were one student group that offered Amherst voters free rides to the polls. Page, a senior at UMass, is running for Amherst’s first-ever Town Council.

Although the program is open to the community as a whole, UMass senior and vice president of the UMass Democrats Jack Eccles said that the effort was created with students in mind.

“I’ve seen it a lot where people offer seniors rides to the polls, but I always thought it was ironic, because seniors are some of the most reliable voters,” Eccles said.

He added that voter turnout has been “pretty abysmal among students, especially in district 3.”

Page, who previously served on the UMass Democrats executive board, has continued to work with the group in efforts to get out the vote.

“The last aspect of engaging students is getting them to the polls on Election Day, so we’re trying to reduce any barriers,” Page told the Gazette. “And there is transportation, the PVTA is really good, but we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for anyone who wants to vote, to vote.”

Page added that the rides to the polls also provide an opportunity to talk to voters and inform them about voting in the local election.

“Whoever they’re voting for, we don’t care,” Page said from downtown Amherst on Tuesday. “What we care about is that they’re going out and voting.”

By around 12:30 p.m., about 40 people had signed up for a ride to the polls through UMass Democrats, with around 28 signing up prior to Election Day.

The UMass Democrats are focused on creating change at both the local and national level, Eccles said, adding that he believes having a student running for Town Council will help to energize other students to vote.

“I think a lot of times student decisions in Amherst can be made without consulting students, so I think especially if we can get students to vote in the Town Council (election), it can make a difference in the direction Amherst is going in,” Eccles said.

Maggie Micklo, a sophomore at Mount Holyoke College and vice president of Mount Holyoke College Democrats, said that that group drove around eight or nine people to the polls on Election Day by 1:45 p.m., as well as seven voters during the early voting period, and helped over 300 students register to vote or request absentee ballots during this election period.

The MHC Democrats offered rides to the polls to residents of South Hadley and surrounding communities, although they also focused primarily on students.

“We were just really looking for more ways to help,” Micklo said. “We’ve been wanting to get as many community members out to vote as possible, regardless of party.”

Isabella Pina and Isadora De Alpino, freshmen at UMass Amherst, caught a ride to the polls with the UMass Democrats as first-time voters.

“I was really excited to vote for the first time, and I didn’t really have another way to get there,” Pina said on using the service.

De Alpino had a similar motivation, stating, “I think voting is important, and I had no other way of getting to the polls.”

At Smith College, university vans were available to drive students to the polls from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sofia Barron-Kardos, a freshman at Smith, said that the school vans felt like the easiest way to get to the polls.

“It’s my first time voting here, so I don’t know the exact location or how to get there,” said Barron-Kardos, who is from San Francisco.

Barron-Kardos said that she has voted before in a local San Francisco election, but was drawn to register in Massachusetts due to her strong support for issues such as transgender rights, which are the subject of Question 3 on the ballot.

When asked if she considers herself to be a politically engaged person, Barron-Kardos said that it is a “luxury” to not be political when issues such as human rights are in the balance.

For Eccles, there are no excuses to abstain from voting.

“It’s so easy, and so important, that to not vote is shameful,” Eccles said.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.
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