Although the frigid temperatures that came with the second day of November caused students to hunker down indoors and try to keep warm, a select group braved the weather to encourage all students to get out and vote in the local election.
Representatives from both the Center for Political Participation and the Andrew Goodman Foundation continued their yearly tradition of hosting a small tabling event with coffee and pastries at the top of Brooks Walk, in addition to providing bus transportation to voting locations for students.
“Colleges, in general, have a very low turnout, especially during (non) presidential elections,” said Ryan Valerio, ’22, who spent some time managing the table. “But this is where we’re living right now — in Meadville. This is a local election. It directly impacts us. So I think it’s important that students realize that they’re going to be living in this community for four years, and they should help make it better.”
Olivia Brophy, ’23, elaborated on election turnout, explaining that although local election turnouts are decent, they never hold a flame against federal elections.
“We saw really, really high voter turnout for the 2020 Presidential or just the 2020 general election last year, because obviously federal elections get lots of attention in the media but local elections do not,” Brophy said.
The push for student voting on campus has long been a facet of CPP, AGF and other Meadville and Allegheny-related organizations. Similar groups have previously advocated for students to be given the day off so they feel free to contribute their time in the election.
Although the second mental health break day fell on Election Day, Valerio explained that the correlation does not necessarily equate to causation.
“I don’t know for a fact if this was the case, but I think it was because there’s been a group of students pushing to use Gator Day on Election Day so that people would go vote,” Valerio said.
Some students, like Kalliyan Greevy, ’25, continue to cast their ballots in their native areas. Greevy remarked that it was not out of spite toward Meadville, but rather a duty to home.
“I feel like my vote has more of an impact at home because my family primarily resides there,” Greevy said. “While things in Meadville might have an effect on me, Allegheny feels like its own town and voting in the outside town doesn’t feel as impactful and immediate as the effect my vote has on my family and friends at home.”
Aubrey Hall, ’22, is heavily invested in the political landscape of the Meadville community and a strong advocate for students registering locally.
“This is where you spend the majority of your time, and students could really help work with the Meadville community to make this a better, more wonderful place to be a part of,” Hall said.
Hall, a Colorado native, originally voted via absentee ballot, as she was much more invested in the politics of her home state.
“I was like, ‘Why would I register to vote in Meadville? (It) doesn’t really interest me that much,’” Hall said. “The reason that I registered locally and started voting locally was the campaign in 2019 for (Meadville Councilman) Larry McKnight and (Meadville Councilwoman)Autumn Vogel. They started the ‘Vote For Meadville,’ ‘My Meadville’ progressive coalition in town, and it was off of that momentum that this campaign for Jaime Kinder, Jack Harkness and Gretchen Myers really started.”
During her sophomore year, Associate Professor of Political Science Andrew Bloeser proposed to Hall the idea of assisting the McKnight and Vogel campaign.
Since then, Hall gained more connections through professors and peers, and is now a member of Crawford County United — an organization which seeks resolutions to systemic issues by organizing within the community and electing community-centered candidates.
“It matters to me because I have, over the past couple of years, gotten to know Meadville a little bit better, and I care about Meadville quite a bit,” Hall said. “I want students to be able to vote in general, but I think it’s important that they vote locally because, I think it’s one step in reducing the whole town-down dynamic, and like getting students to care about the community that they’re a part of.”
As of Thursday, Nov. 4, both the race for mayor and city council remain uncalled. Vote for Meadville’s mayoral candidate, Jamie Kinder, a Democrat, leads the write-in votes 1,327 to 1,221. Republican challenger Marcy Kantz ran a write-in campaign, but write-in votes have yet to be verified to be all intended for Kantz. Kantz claimed victory Tuesday night on her Facebook page despite this verification process still needing to occur and mail-in and absentee ballots needing to be counted.
In the race for Meadville City Council, the race is razor-thin for the two-seat vacancy between Democrats Gretchen Myers and Jack Harkless and Republicans Jim Roha and Nancy Mangilo Bittner.
UPDATE 11/5 2:48 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect that Hall’s professor was Associate Professor of Political Science Andrew Bloeser.