For the first time, some college students prepare to vote on campus this general election

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Cornell students and community members will cast their ballots at Alice Cook House, a dormitory and dining hall. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

Many college students in New York will be able to cast their ballot on campus this year. For some students, like at Cornell University, it’s the first general election where that’s an option.

It’s a typical Monday evening at Alice Cook House, a dorm and dining hall on Cornell’s campus in Ithaca. There are students eating, someone’s playing the piano.

But Cornell University seniors Patrick Mehler and Dana Karami said they can already envision what the room will look like on Election Day. 

“Folks are gonna check in and make sure that they’re in the right spot,” Mehler said, walking through the room. 

“They’ll have a couple of — Dana, what did you call them? Like little voting booths,” Mehler said.

“Yeah. There will be one station here,” Karami said, gesturing. 

“And [voters] will put their lovely, fully completed ballot all the way down the line into the machine here. And then they will each get a sticker,” Mehler said.

That’s because on Tuesday morning, this room turns into Cornell’s very own on-campus polling site.

New York passed a law this spring that requires any college with more than 300 students to offer on-campus voting. It also prevents officials from dividing college campuses into different election districts.

Many colleges in the region, like Cornell and Binghamton University, hosted polling sites for the first time during the primary elections this summer, when most students are away. For many students, this will be the first election where on-campus voting is widely available (though there are some exceptions, like Elmira College).

Karami and Mehler co-founded Cornell Votes in 2020, through which they lobbied for the state to pass college voting legislation. Cornell Votes is a non-partisan organization aimed at increasing turnout among Cornell students. Mehler has also served on Ithaca’s Common Council after he was appointed in 2021.

Karami said getting the polling place on campus has been one of their biggest goals for the organization.

“Young people are one of the biggest voting groups in this country,” Karami said. “There’s a misconception that older people make up the larger group of people. It’s true, there’s more [older] people who vote but there aren’t more [older] people who are registered to vote.”

Karami and Mehler said most of the Cornell students they’ve talked to are still registered to vote in their home states. But the two say they just want students to vote … whether it’s on campus or by absentee ballot. 

Polls close Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. To find a sample ballot and check your polling place, visit your county’s board of elections website.