Campus sponsors multiple voting efforts


Danielle Christina

NVU-Johnson “walkout” voters on Nov. 6

On election day, students had many opportunities to get down into town to vote in the midterm elections. Along with three shuttle rides organized by Director of Student Activities and Community Service Krista Swahn, students could also choose to attend the 10 a.m. walkout organized by Mackenzie Murdoch. Eight people showed, including two Basement Medicine reporters and Murdoch herself.

“Voter apathy is a major problem,” Murdoch said. “Not only with young people, but specifically with this campus. There is a major concern with me with the fact that I haven’t had very many conversations about people who are running or who people are voting for or what views they’re voting for. So I’m just trying to get people to collectively join together to go vote. I’m hoping that people are just going to vote at another time today.”

While early voting totals have skyrocketed in other more controversial areas, Vermont’s increases in early and absentee ballot requests have been slighter. According to the Burlington Free Press, as of Nov. 1 there had been over 60,000 requests for early or absentee ballots. This number is almost double the requests from the 2014 midterm. Places like Texas, however, have seen early voting rates spike more than 500 percent.

“I think people are blissfully ignorant about politics here,” said Murdoch. “I think a lot of people have the mindset that if an issue doesn’t affect you then it’s not a major issue. Here in northern Vermont, the majority of the people are white and pretty much safe on a day-to-day basis. There’s a lot of issues that aren’t pressing right on this campus so I think people forget about them. But I think specifically in Vermont things like systemic racism, no one ever talks about it, but then you look at climate change, and northern Vermont is totally being affected by that.”

Murdoch said she was contacted by the press to come visit the campus to cover the walkout. “If you’re looking for people chanting and rowdy, this is not the place,” she said. “I told them to go to UVM.”

Murdoch had planned walkouts at Champlain and UVM, but both had turnouts of fewer than 10. When the concept of handing out items to encourage people to come was raised, Murdoch said, “I’m real upset. People were like, ‘You should have given out t-shirts.’ Where do you think I’m gonna get money to make t-shirts? I’m not paid for this!”

“Also,” she said, “this shouldn’t be a concern because there are 6 of us, but stay on the sidewalks, because if you’re not on the sidewalk, you could be spoken to for organized protesting, which is what I got arrested for in DC. For that, I got two misdemeanors. When I applied to UVM, they were like, ‘Why do you have two misdemeanors?’ and I was like, ‘I stood in the street. Wrong place, wrong time.’”

While the small group stood in the cold, other students walked by. Murdoch and others called to the passersby. “Are you going to vote?” she asked. Many did not reply, or responded with ambivalence. Still others were headed to class, and felt they couldn’t skip.

“I might just stand around campus and yell all day,” Murdoch said. “but at least they’re not openly hostile. When we were registering people to vote, they were blatantly hostile. Today people aren’t swearing at us.”

Although the crowd was small, Murdoch maintained a positive attitude. “This is a really good walkout, guys. I’m really proud of you for coming.”

When asked what they thought would help voting on campus, the group had a myriad of ideas. “Make people care. I don’t know how to do that,” Murdoch said.

Danielle Christina, another student in the group, responded, “Rugby tackle them.”

After a brief bit of laughter, Murdoch thought about it seriously. “The Meet the Candidates night was good, a good step,” she said. “Bringing people here. Because the problem with this campus is if it’s not directly in front of their face, people don’t find it. So things like that. A polling place on campus would be good. If you plaster signs saying “Vote Here!” it’s easier for people to go do it even though the actual polling place is close by. I just wish we didn’t have to modify things like that to get people to be involved.”

While they were few in number, the walkout proved to be a passionate group of individuals determined to do their civic duty. As the day went on, more and more people sported an “I Voted” sticker.

Vermont will stay a vaguely mixed political state, leaning left, with a Republican (Scott) in the governor’s seat and a Progressive (Zuckerman) as lieutenant governor. Independent incumbent Bernie Sanders will stay in his seat, as will Congressman Peter Welch.

Lamoille county will be represented by a Republican, Rich Westman, in the Vermont Senate.