By Sean Callahan
Not everyone is excited about the upcoming presidential election, but Saint Vincent College and Seton Hill University certainly want their students to get excited about it. On Oct. 5, Dr. John Smetanka, vice president of Academic Affairs and academic dean, sent an email to Saint Vincent students, encouraging them to register to vote with TurboVote, a voting tool offered by Democracy Works. According to the Democracy Works website, TurboVote provides information such as election deadlines and detailed election rules in all fifty states. It’s even possible to receive text or email notifications with these details.
Kelly King, director of Service Learning and Outreach, explained that during a typical semester, her office helps coordinate student community activities on and off campus. As the pandemic persists, voter registration programs are viable ways to continue those student activities. The service learning staff at Duquesne University and Seton Hill University advised King to consider TurboVote.
“Due to COVID, off-campus activity was not a safe option for our students or our community partners. We needed to look at other ways of keeping students engaged with the larger community,” King said.
Smetanka’s sentiments were similar in his email. He hoped that Saint Vincent’s students would not only enthusiastically exceed Seton Hill’s voter numbers, but that they would create change in the community for the better.
“Perhaps you can make the difference in this important civic enterprise and fierce competition with the university just down Route 30 from us,” Smetanka wrote.
The competition, according to King, has a simple goal: to have the most students register to vote through TurboVote—or if they are already registered, to use the website to stay informed of upcoming elections. To make the contest more fun, multiple faculty members from both Seton Hill and Saint Vincent offered to dye their hair the color of the winning school.
King said that as of Oct. 12, currently a little more than 200 Saint Vincent students had registered with TurboVote. She hoped to have 200 more registered by Pennsylvania’s voter registration deadline, Oct. 19. Furthermore, she wanted a more civically active and aware student body.
“Being engaged at the local, state and national level provides one way to support our concern for the marginalized and vulnerable in the community,” King said.
The competition between Saint Vincent and Seton Hill has not happened in past years. King isn’t sure if it will continue into the future, but wants to believe that voter registration, more than anything, will increase.
“I hope students think about how they want to be engaged in their communities,” King said. “There are so many opportunities to make a difference—make the effort, spend the time and discover ways to improve the lives of others.”