A Day in the Life
My alarm clock rings at 5:30am. I have just enough time to take a quick shower, put on the clothes I left out the night before, and brew a cup of coffee before heading to the Bates campus. My son, nearly two years old, gives me a hug and says “bye, bye mama!”
On campus, Inez Johnson ‘25 is up and ready to tackle the day. It’s 6:30am, and she’s setting up the “Get Out the Vote ” display in front of Commons for the Bates Votes team. The goal on Election Day is simple: Encourage students who haven’t already done so to vote in the 2022 midterm elections. The team has already worked hard to support students who voted early or in other states, and now it is time to Get Out the Vote in Lewiston.
At 7am our first tabling shift arrives, with Khadeeja Qureshi ‘23, Elizabeth Gramley ‘25, and Oyuka Lyndon ‘25. Signs are set up, balloons are inflated, and they ask students if they have a plan to vote. “Polls are open now,” they encourage. “You can walk down Central Ave to the Armory, right across the street from Kal (and Post + Print).”
While students set up the table, I walk to the polls to check in with our Bates staff member who helps with student voter registration. It’s 7:15am and Zack Brown-Cross, Coordinator of Residence Life, has his coffee in hand, and a big smile. “It’s great to see this place busy so early,” he says. Zack has the first shift at the polls, followed by Ronan Goulden ‘22, Nora Molloy, and Blake Reilly – It’s a tradition for Student Affairs staff to help with student voter registration at the Lewiston Armory.
Inez puts on a curated playlist of Election Day songs, and the music energizes us despite the 50 degree weather. Several students come by the table on their way to breakfast before their 8am class. One group voted absentee in their home state but want to grab hot cocoa, coffee, and “I Voted” stickers–the result of a student design contest. Others share their plans to walk to the polls with their friends later that afternoon. Non-partisan voter guides are handed out to students who realize they could use more information about the candidates on the ballot.
Over the course of the day, hundreds of students pass by the Bates Votes table. We ask every student if they’ve had a chance to vote, and we answer questions about how to register at the polls and what to expect on the ballot.
President Clayton Spencer and Bates faculty members Jesse Minor, Susan Stark, Johnny Kurzfeld, Michael Roque, Erin De Pree, Bridget Fullerton, Kate Snyder, and Sam Boss visit the table at designated times to walk students to the polls – many of whom are first-time voters. Elsewhere on campus, staff from the Office of Intercultural Education–Maria Mendoza-Bautista, Dri Huber, Shaula Edwards, and Mana Abdi–launch walking groups to the polls. Meanwhile, Bates Votes team members Ethan Chan ‘25, Noah Forman ‘25, and Marcos Pacheco Soto ‘24 take over tabling for part of the late morning and early afternoon, staggering their time at the table around their class schedule, while walking student groups to the polls every hour. International students Vyshu Viju ‘26 and Alan Wang ‘24 get involved talking to students about voting because they don’t have that right here in the United States. Natalia Jacobs ‘26 and Emily Gonzalez ‘25 also volunteer at the table to make sure students know how easy it is to vote.
At 5:30pm, before the OIE’s First Generation Day Celebration Dinner, I get a call from Assistant Dean and OIE Director Maria Mendoza-Bautista about a few of her students who still need to vote. She is going to walk them to the polls and wants to know what they need to take with them and what is on the ballot. Fortunately, copies of the Bates nonpartisan voting guide are already at the OIE, and all students need to register to vote is their Bates ID, and if they are new Maine voters, the last four digits of their Social Security number. Maria walks the students to the polls and captures the moment as first-time voters!
Back at the polls, record numbers of students are turning out to vote. In between classes, there are waves of students who wait in line to register or receive their ballot. The field hockey team dons their Bates Votes shirts and walks over to the polls after practice. Our instagram feed explodes with Bates athletes posting team photos at the polls!
At the end of the day, we’re joined by Maple Buescher ‘25, who spent nearly four hours at the Bates Votes table.
As a perfect book-end to the day, Inez Johnson, fresh from Cross Country practice, comes back to the Bates Votes table for the final hour of the day. At 7:55pm she asks a couple of students on their way out of Commons if they voted – one says yes, and another says no. Inez jumps up: “It’s so easy to vote; it’ll only take five minutes. Are you registered? It’s super easy – let’s go!” They hurry to the polls and arrive just in time. If you’re in line by 8pm, you can’t be turned away.
We clean up our tables, take down our posters, and pack up our balloons. As we head to my car with all the equipment, we run into Inez and the new student voter as they walk back to campus. “He was the last voter at the polls,” she proudly announces.
This is why we GOTV.
At 10pm we’re still texting, asking about the election results, and I know our students won’t be going to bed anytime soon. There’s homework, classes, jobs, presentations, student clubs, athletic practice, and student government. The lives of Bates students are busy–far busier than when I was a student. But this is why GOTV works. . . Sometimes busy people need reminders, encouragement, support, and information when it comes to voting.