by Kelsey Wynn | Editor in Chief
SCRANTON – With the 59th quadrennial presidential election just over two months out, both the University and the City of Scranton have information and opportunities to offer to those still scratching their heads over voter registration.
The University of Scranton Community Relations Office is partnering with U of S Student Government throughout the fall semester to provide resources to hopeful student voters.
Carolyn Bonacci, community and civic engagement coordinator, said that while in past years Student Government has registered students to vote on campus, the coronavirus pandemic has made face-to-face interactions like these difficult this year. Bonacci stressed, however, that there is no shortage of information within the new brainchild of the two campus offices’ website collaboration, Royals Vote.
“There are some really great resources on there that we’re going to keep adding to as we go,” Bonacci said. “There’s an easy link to register there. You can just click on it and find out if you’re registered; if you are registered, where you’re registered to vote so you can update your location. If you aren’t registered, you can just go ahead and register right there.”
Fast Facts on Voting:
- Pennsylvania voter registration deadline is Oct. 19, 2020
- Mail in ballot applications must be complete by Oct. 27, 2020
- Mail in ballots returned in person must be received by 8 p.m. Nov. 3
- Election Day is Nov. 3, 2020. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Additional resources available on Royals Vote include information on creating a voting plan and finding a polling location, student voter guides by state with deadlines for registration and voting, common voting terms and explanations that highlight key points of specific candidates and referendums for making educated decisions, according to Bonacci.
“It’s funny because for local elections I’ve sometimes relied heavily on some people that are older than me or my husband to tell me [a candidate] likes this or that,” Bonacci said. “What I’ve learned is I like to try to educate myself as much as I can, so the website will have resources for that.”
The City of Scranton also encouraged students and local residents to stay educated and involved with City programs throughout the month of August with the Scranton Together Neighborhood Initiative, outreach sessions designed to bring city services to Scranton streets hosted by Mayor Paige Cognetti, according to the initiative’s Facebook page.
Despite a recent location in the Hill Section on Aug. 26, Miranda Pace, neighborhood engagement intern, said student turnout to their sessions has been low, though not surprisingly.
“It’s difficult to get all people informed because there’s always someone you miss, and I feel like with this we’re not getting a lot of young voices,” Pace said. “It’s mostly the elderly, mostly because of the time of the day [the sessions] are at.”
Outreach sessions aren’t the only places student participation is low, with just 20 percent of millennials turning out for the 2016 presidential election. Bonacci suggested a solution for students who are low on both time and funds but still want to get involved – signing up to be a poll worker.
“COVID will definitely make it difficult for the usual older population of people who staff the polls to have a full turnout this year,” Bonacci said. “Being a poll worker is a paid job, so if you don’t have any preexisting conditions and you feel comfortable social distancing and wearing a mask, you can sign up. It’s a huge community service – this is something you can do and feel good about doing it.”
Community Relations and Student Government will also host a discussion in their “State of Scranton” seminar series addressing voting, featuring local elected officials to discuss how to vote, the importance of voting and other questions with students the week of Sept. 21. Another event, recognizing Constitution Day, titled “Values That Inform Your Vote”, a political dialogue, will be offered via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Sept. 17. Registration may be completed with SurveyMonkey closer to the event.
Bonacci said these events are valuable resources to help inform student voters. She also included that those who requested mail-in ballots but do not have sufficient time to return it via mail, residents may drop ballots off at their county’s elections office. This is true for everyone in the United States, but Lackawanna County residents may return their ballots to 123 Wyoming Ave.
“Especially this year, I think registering early and ensuring you get your ballot early if you’re mailing it in is going to be super important,” Bonacci said.