Nicole Taylor ’19 has been helping Hamilton students vote since her first year on campus.
Taylor explained, “I would be talking to my new friends about politics and I’d say, ‘Well, you know, the only way you can really voice your opinion at this stage in your life is to vote. Are you registered to vote?’ and they’d be seniors and they’d say, ‘No.’” This led her to teach some of her peers about the registration process and ultimately helped foster her passion for campus voter engagement.
Now, Taylor is founder and chair of the HamVotes Student Ambassador Team and a member of the HamVotes Committee, a non-partisan group comprising administrators and student ambassadors who aim to make the voting process more transparent and accessible. The team provides information about voting and completing ballots, encourages student political participation and tries to make voting fun and fulfilling.
On NVRD, [National Voter Registration Day, Sept. 25] we’re going to have a traveling registration where we start around 12 p.m. on one side of campus and work our way across campus with all our volunteers.
HamVotes is spearheaded by Taylor, Phyllis Breland, Kaity Stewart, Lisa Magnarelli, Tessa Chefalo, Phil Klinkner and Amanda Kim ’21. Taylor joined the group after approaching Breland in January 2018. She had recently finished a term in Washington, D.C., where she interned for Campus Vote Project, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that assists students with voting. Taylor knew that she wanted to get Hamilton students more civically involved. After talking with Breland and others who had similar goals, the HamVotes Committee solidified and began making plans for this school year.
Taylor focused on student involvement, working with a team of student volunteers also committed to the vision of a politically engaged Hamilton. These students then spent part of the summer learning how to register people to vote and combat common student voting barriers. During the school year, each student also helps plan programs for the committee and reaches out to various student groups to either talk about voting or set up a voting event.
Using TurboVote, a tool that provides information about voting and elections, HamVotes has already registered numerous students. The team began their programming orientation week, reaching out to first-year students. “We registered and signed up for TurboVote approximately 150 students,” Taylor said.
HamVotes plans on using this election season to the fullest. “On NVRD, [National Voter Registration Day, Sept. 25] we’re going to have a traveling registration where we start around 12 p.m. on one side of campus and work our way across campus with all our volunteers,” Taylor said. The group will also participate in more casual, traditional events, such as table planning, which intend to make students plan out the logistics of getting to or sending in a ballot.
A math and government major, Taylor hopes to further study elections and voter turnout engagement in her thesis this spring. As for HamVotes, she believes that the group can eventually extend farther into the Clinton community and recruit even more potential voters.
Overall, Taylor trusts that HamVotes will be successful and continue for years to come, citing administrative and student support. “We’ve had a number of people reach out to our email address saying they really want to get involved. And we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. It definitely seems like Hamilton’s campus is really energized and really ready to go.”
To learn more about HamVotes or the voting process, visit the HamVotes website.