During a Friday night earlier this semester at the Seagrape, the de facto campus bar for seniors at Fairfield University, Peter Collins, the owner of the Seagrape, had the DJ fade out the music to deliver a message to a disgruntled group of college students who just wanted to dance. 

Not every word could be made out, but the crowd got the gist; students would need to vote in upcoming local elections in order to save the Seagrape and the Fairfield Beach party culture from incoming night time noise restrictions. It was as easy as showing up and using a student ID.

For many, this seemed like something to ignore after the music came back on, but this cause started gaining steam among students in the following days.

In a GroupMe chat with over 800 Fairfield seniors, a few started sending information on how to vote and the consequences of what could happen if students didn’t.

The college vote is a powerful thing.

On November 7th, the town of Fairfield saw around 300 voters cast ballots who had just registered that day. There was nearly a thousand percent increase in same day voter registration from the last election where only 27 voters registered and cast ballots on the same day.

With only a few rousing words, people leading this crusade were able to accomplish the difficult task of getting college students to care about local elections enough to mobilize.

Unfortunately for these fun-loving students, the Republican incumbent lost a close race by just 37 votes with nearly 18,000 ballots cast.

Ironically enough, the issue that many students were voting on, the impending noise ordinance, had already been passed weeks earlier.

Many of these students were single issue voters and likely knew little about the politics of the candidates on the ballot. Although they were misinformed, was voting really that bad? After all, they are using their right to vote on issues that affect them, even if they are as trivial as parties.

College voting is tricky. Across the country, states have different laws or policies on many aspects of voting including polling locations and deadlines for absentee ballots.

Another big issue for college students is the question of permanent residence. In the case of Fairfield University, a majority of students don’t have a home in Connecticut. During the typical four years, they spend a majority of those months at Fairfield though. Where can we say these students truly live?

For those who registered to vote from out of state, they were able to put university addresses and show student IDs in addition to an ID like a drivers license.

For those who live in the town, especially those who plan on staying long after the current students graduate, a student voting for a short term outcome can be unfavorable for those who live in the area permanently.

Outside of contested elections, like that of the 2020 Presidential election, turnout in the younger age group is low, and candidates feel little need to appeal to them as a crucial voter base. This is especially true of small, local elections.

The college vote is a wealth of untapped potential for candidates and recent elections have been starting to reveal just how much power this generation holds.

Given the majority of college students nationally are left leaning, many Republican controlled states are looking to affect student voting powers. 

Earlier this year, a proposal in Texas would look to eliminate polling places on college campuses.

States like Idaho, Ohio, and Montana are looking to try to discredit the current power of a student ID, adding just one more barrier to vote.

State sponsored education in high school puts an emphasis on civic engagement, yet powers within the government put added stress on the system. 

Proponents of the restrictions cite election security as the reason for change as public confidence in elections has gone down within the last decade, but it seems like a reach.

Many groups of people are affected by suppression tactics, but according to Matthew Waggner, the Fairfield Democratic Registrar of Voters, college students are what he sees as the most underserved within the area.

What can students do to have their voices heard? It’s quite simple; vote!

It only took the passion and consistency of a few to rally Fairfield students the first time. An election was almost flipped because of it.

Reading up on the candidates and finding issues that you care about goes a long way.

For all the university and town can do to help students, nothing will happen until we begin to care about it ourselves.