SUNY Geneseo students are irate over the recently passed ‘Social Host Law’ which tickets and fines the host of any party where there is underage drinking. Given the numbers that took to the polls for this fall’s last-minute write-in rally for Wes Kennison for Town Supervisor, elected Village officials are firmly in the crosshairs of SUNY Geneseo students.
“We live in this town,” said Aiden Coffey, 22, the senior at SUNY Geneseo who mobilized students to vote in the fall election and plans to register at least 1,000 for the spring election. “We know we are a substantial part of this town’s economy, social, and civic life. Students volunteer with the fire department, emergency crews, for the wall, and research the history of the town. We are an integral part of this town and if laws are going to be directed at students, then students must have a role in consulting with the town make things as fair and equitable for all parties.”
In the spring 2016 election, two positions are up for grabs, Ben Gajewski and Bob Wilcox, both Democrats who voted in support of the social host law. The mayoral position is not up for vote until 2018.
According to David DiPasquale from the Livingston County Board of Elections, the last-minute push by SUNY voters caused issues at two Geneseo voting locations.
“We had a huge issue on election night, said DiPasquale. “Inspectors handled it well as affidavit voters were being disrespectful, and downright rude and nasty. Our inspectors don’t have anything to do with the votes that are counted, they were only doing what we had advised them to do as the Livingston County Board of Elections.”
Coffey said that many students reported being demanding at the polls for their affidavit ballots, and that there was friction between students and poll workers on election night. However, Coffey added that no one wants to focus on the friction and the community’s attention is better spent with the underlying issues.
In Geneseo, 77 affidavit ballots were received and 11 were accepted. According to DiPasquale, the majority of the rejects were actually registered to vote in a different county or town. All of those 77 affidavit voters are now in the system with updated addresses so they will be eligible to vote in the spring election.
It is estimated that over 1,000 students tried to register through the college’s TurboVote program but were turned away at the polls because they had in fact registered in their home counties.
The spring election also has a bigger window for voters to register. In spring, voters can register 10 days prior to election day. In the fall, voters must register and update their addresses 25 days prior to election day.
“I’m going to be gone next year, I’m a senior,” said Coffey, “but I hope to leave a legacy not just for myself but for the entire senior class to get involved in local, state and federal elections. The students need to make it their responsibility to get registered.”
SUNY Geneseo student voters are faced with one big challenge. Election day, which is established by New York State, is April 4, during spring break. All students who leave for spring break will have to vote through absentee ballots.
“We encourage students, and everyone, to vote,” said Dipasquale. “The affidavit voters were misinformed when they came down to vote.”
Currently there are 2,202 registered voters in the Village of Geneseo. At 2015’s spring election, 468 took to the polls. This spring, Coffey says that he and other students are seeking as large a turnout as possible, not only for students but for all members of the community.
One additional race, later in the year that could be greatly impacted by a strong student movement would be the 2016 Livingston County District Attorney’s race.
“It isn’t an issue of students versus town, I don’t view it through that lens at all,” said Coffey. “When I was going door to door I went to the Highlands multiple times. The goal here is to get as many people involved as possible.”