Bowdoin has a new “engagement election fellow,” a student who is leading a voter registration push on campus this semester and laying down a basic infrastructure for future voter-registration efforts.
The McKeen Center for the Common Good created the position last spring, hiring Liam Gunn ’17 to take charge of signing students up to vote in Maine or in their home states. Gunn is also tasked with helping students get up to speed on national issues and Maine ballot questions.
Gunn, who is double majoring in government and environmental studies, and minoring in economics, said the job aligned with his interests in politics and activism. “I liked the idea of doing a version of a grassroots ‘get out the vote’ movement here that was nonpartisan,” he said. For the past two summers, he’s interned in some political capacity, the first year with US Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and the second with the Environmental Defense Fund, where he was a legislative research intern.
Gunn has been coordinating with the McKeen Center’s Andrew Lardie, as well as with Bowdoin Student Government and students in the campus’s three political groups (Bowdoin Republicans, Bowdoin Democrats, and the nonpartisan Bowdoin Political Union). They’re organizing election-themed events and registration drives leading up to election day.
“The two main things are voter registration and education,” Gunn said. To encourage registration, he has set up tables at events such as at the Student Activities Fair, handing out voter registration cards and information sheets (see the slideshow below). He also has obtained hundreds of absentee ballots for several big states, and will help students acquire their ballots for other states.
Gunn and his campus partners have also organized debate viewing parties for the three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate. Monday’s debate screening took place in Jack Magee’s Pub, where a voter registration table was set up. On Tuesday, which is National Voter Registration Day, students are tabling from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Smith Union, helping more students register.
On Nov. 8, election day, the McKeen Center has booked vans to shuttle students back and forth from the Brunswick polls all day.
Currently, Bowdoin has paltry student voting records. Gunn said he’s going to try to collect more data this year. Based on a conversation he had with Brunswick’s town clerk, he said roughly half of the Bowdoin students who register to vote do so in Maine.
Check out Bowdoin’s voter information sheets below