Midterm exams may be over at Montclair State University, but the midterm elections have just taken place on campuses in New Jersey and across the country.
The polls opened bright and early Tuesday morning at Machuga Heights, welcoming hundreds of students, residents and other visitors to cast their votes. The on-campus polling location also served as the venue for Montclair State’s first-ever Party at the Polls event.
Mariel Pagan, the director of the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) and the campus Department of Civic and Voter Engagement, organized the party. It was created to encourage students to vote and to help those who have not voted before.
“[Party at the Polls] is a national effort,” Pagan said. “There are lots of other schools and entities that are throwing parties at polls. It’s because of research that shows when groups have done something like this close to a voting location, it has increased voter turnout.”
Some students took their first trip to the voting booth, including freshman communication and media arts major Amarisa Torres. She was excited to cast her vote for the people and causes she believes in.
“[I voted today] to have a say in what’s going on in the world,” Torres said. “I hope that change comes out of this election. I hope a lot of different policies come [into] play.”
Many students volunteered at the party not only for the free food but because they have a passion for the cause. Senior finance major Peace Biyibioku volunteered and believes that college students should become more involved in politics and stand up for the things they believe in.
“Everybody’s voice matters,” Biyibioku said. ” The last election I feel that [a lot of people] didn’t vote so if we promote it, volunteer for it and see our peers do it, then [they will be] more inclined to do it.”
Other volunteers agree with Biyibioku and also decided to help out, including sophomore sociology major Jessica Lopez.
“The midterm elections are important to me because I feel that my values are not shown in today’s society,” Lopez said. “I feel that the beliefs I have aren’t really supported by people who are in power.”
Some students were also excited to get involved, like sophomore exercise science major Valery Villalobos. She is also a part of Bonner Leaders, a community service-based program at Montclair State. Volunteering at this event helped her gain some volunteer credit as part of her 300 required hours of service for the year.
“We help out the community anywhere we are in need of volunteers, like helping to vote,” Villalobos said.
Sophomore political science major Joseph Dybas represented the Andrew Goodman Foundation, an organization spearheaded by CSI. He also hopes that with this event, students will not be afraid to get involved in politics.
“The midterm election is incredibly important to me,” Dybas said. “I believe that no matter your political identity, you should have faith in our democracy, and get out and vote to let your voice be heard.”