Bantam Maddy White ‘22, is a double major in human rights and French and a legal studies minor from Milton, Massachusetts. On-campus, she serves as Student Government Association (SGA) vice president of communications, is a member of Trin’s ConnPirg chapter, is involved with TrinVotes!, is the vice president of recruitment for Alpha Chi Omega (AXO), and sits on the JELLO (community service club) executive board. And as if that were not enough a busy enough schedule, she also works for Dream Camp.
SoMA, and class of 2022 peer, Wendy Salto ’22, recently spoke with White about her passion for voter’s rights and how Trin is helping students rock the vote this election year.
When did you first vote? What was your first voting experience like?
I got involved in voter registration on Trin’s campus because, as a first-year, away from home for the first time, I was eligible to vote in my first midterm election, and I found the process hard. There are a lot of barriers to voting, and as members of a young population, we are underrepresented.
My freshman year, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m so excited I get to vote now!’ I’ve always been a really politically active person, but I got to college, and I was like, ‘I don’t know how to request an absentee ballot?’ (I’m registered to vote in Massachusetts, just because I care a lot about my local and my state politics.) After asking around, I eventually went online. I had to request the form. I had to print it out in the library and use my printing dollars. I filled it out and then had to find an envelope and a stamp, so I had to go to CVS and get envelopes and stamps because I didn’t have any. Finally, I was able to send in my ballot.
Barriers — can you elaborate further on the challenges students face?
A lot of states (not Connecticut) don’t have online voter registration! So, you have to go in person to get a request form. I think absentee voting is hard because you have to plan for it—you have to time out when you’re going to request it. And then, you have to wait for the ballot to arrive in the mail, and after you fill out the ballot—and send it back in the mail—you have to wait for it to get delivered.
I’d say another barrier is that a lot of people start their voter registration forms, but don’t finish them. In Connecticut, for example, you have to put your driver’s license number on the form, or your social security number. And, a lot of us students, surprisingly, don’t have that information. It is a barrier because so many people will start the registration form thinking that they’ve finished, but in reality, their forms are incomplete.
Thankfully, in the virtual world, there are more online voter registration opportunities. StudentVote.org is a website for students, by students, that allows us to help one another with the voter registration process. It allows us to follow up and contact students who have incomplete forms. You can even put your phone number in, and you’ll get a call reminding you to vote on Election Day (11/3/2020), and ensuring you have all the information you need to do so. So, that would be my recommendation, use that resource because it’s really effective and provides you the information that you need to be successful.
Do you have encouraging words for people that are feeling like, “Oh, it’s not worth it? Like, it’s so hard?!”
My advice would be you can do it, you just have to do it early. And you have to be on top of it. Have a plan! You also have the option to change your registration to Connecticut, but the deadline is October 27. So, let’s say you forget to request your absentee ballot, or it doesn’t get here in time, and you’re worried your vote is not going to count. Last-minute, you can change your voter registration to Connecticut, and then you can walk to the polls over at the Learning Corridor.
How are groups like TrinVotes! and ConnPirg working to engage students during COVID-19?
We’re trying to engage students through several different events and building our coalition. We recently celebrated national voter registration day, just a nonpartisan civic engagement holiday. And that was fun, because it brought together people from all different groups from the pirgs, from TrinVotes!, and also just people that care about voting. We had secretary of the state of Connecticut, Denise Merrill there. We did some trivia. And then we did what is called “a call to action,” where we stayed on Zoom, played music, and reached out to our friends and family to get them registered. So we’ve kind of turned this into relational organizing, which is this new concept that I’m learning so much about, but how to use like, the relationships that we have, in a virtual world to our benefit.
What can students do to become more involved with student groups like TrinVotes! and ConnPirg?
The TrinVotes! group meets every other Thursday at 2 p.m. (EDT). We are looking for many more students to join this coalition! Students can shoot me an email and I can add people to the calendar invite. And it’s just a really good way to meet like-minded people. And I’ve formed great relationships with professors and staff that I would have never met if I wasn’t a part of this group, like Carlos Espinosa (Trin alumnus and Director, Office of Community Relations & Trinfo.Café) and Joe Barber (Director of the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement), who co-run the coalition.
You can also get involved with the new voters project through Trinity ConnPirg. The New Voters Project meets Wednesdays at 6 p.m. (EDT) over Zoom. Our campaign meetings are a great time to talk about ideas that we have for events and engaging students, and also how we can meet our goal of registering 350 voters by Election Day.
Is there anything else you want students to know?
I know this is a lot of student’s first presidential election, ever. And it’s exciting because it is a momentous event in your life.
I’m really looking forward to voting. And I’m hoping that we can increase voter turnout at Trinity. I think that the first step is getting registered. And the second step is executing your vote. And I just hope that the work that I’m doing on campus just makes this process a little bit more available and a little bit more accessible for, you know, the typical busy college student.
LET’S BE SOCIAL: @maddy.white