Many Georgetown University students have decided to vote absentee this November, even with two students’ names on local ballots.
“People underestimate local politics,” said Trevor Tezel, Georgetown University sophomore and chair of DC Students Speak.
Few students see importance in voting in local elections, in part because the two students running for seats on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) are running uncontested in districts with solely student constituents.
Last week the Hoya editorial board wrote, “Students would be misguided to diminish their voice by voting here.” The board’s reasoning was that students' voices are better heard in an influential presidential election at home, due to the District’s liberal record and minimal number of electoratal votes.
“This is my school residence. It’s not my permanent residence,” said Alba Seoane, senior at Georgetown who is registered to vote in her home state of New York.
Rosie Bichell, sophomore at Georgetown from Nashville, Tenn. is registered in Tennessee, where she says her liberal vote matters more in the presidential election.
“I should learn more about D.C. local government,” said Bichell, who did not know two of her fellow students would be on the local ballot. “I haven’t really looked into it much.”
Freshman Christopher Hahn is registered to vote in his home state of New Jersey. He did not know that living in the District during the school year meant that he could register here.
Seoane never thought about registering in the District in the four years she has studied at Georgetown. She did not think she could.
The university’s location in Ward 2 is a recent epicenter for community conversation. Georgetown residents protested off-campus student conduct such as noise disturbance and excessive trash during the recent campus plan discussions and again at the beginning of this semester.
Georgetown residents were “fed-up with students making a mess” said Edgar Eniquez, senior at Georgetown, who is registered to vote in Illinois.
The Georgetown Community Partnership (GCP) was formed to help the university and city work through issues. Georgetown’s Department of Public Safety Officers partnered with the Metropolitan Police Department to offer more campus area security. The campus has also funded twice a day trash pickup for the surrounding area, and does not allow on-campus students to bring cars.
“The priorities are just absurd here,” said Seoane, who lives off-campus. She described the neighborhood as a “police state.”
Students registered to vote in D.C. can have a say in the policy that affects them by voting for junior Peter Prindiville or sophomore Craig Cassey, Jr. for ANC, depending upon which of the two student districts they live in.
The legitimacy of local student representation becomes an issue when few students are voting locally said Tezel.
The last student ANC Councilmember Jake Sticka was elected by a total of six votes of seven in 2010. The seventh vote was a write-in.
“While it’s nice to have student representation in this group, Sticka’s election provided nothing close to a mandate,” wrote the Hoya last week.
Stelios Fourakis, senior at Georgetown, said the University’s voice would have little weight in the community even if all Georgetown students voted. Fourakis is registered in his home state of Wisconsin.
Prindiville and Cassey will sit on the ANC regardless of the number of votes they receive, but Tezel would like to see lots of students vote to give the candidates a “legitimate voice.”
“When it comes to where your vote matters—every vote matters,” said Tezel.
Tezel believes more students voting on District ballots will increase competition for students running for ANC seats and will put more pressure on local politicians like Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans to listen to students’ concerns
“We can create a stronger constituency,” said Tezel.
“…My predisposition is to always encourage people to vote where they live because at the end of the day it’s the local government you have the most impact in dealings with,” said Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans.
DC Students Speak will go from dorm door to dorm door on Sept. 24 and 25 to help Georgetown students register to vote in D.C. using the online program Turbo Vote.
Students that want to vote in the District on Nov. 6 can register now or wait until Election Day. They must claim their school address at which they began living at 30 days prior to the election. Driver’s license and vehicle registration have to be updated to remain valid.