SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Ethan Gormley sits in a small and empty room in the New York Public Interest Research Group office. His Apple laptop sits on an otherwise empty desk, as old posters and fliers fill the small, one-floor space they usually operate from.
One major thing is missing from the NYPIRG office this year though: people.
Gormley has been the project coordinator for NYPIRG for three years. He’s worked on voter registration in years before, but nothing compares to the differences that 2020 has brought. Visits to NYPIRG are made by appointment-only now.
New York’s voter registration deadline is Oct. 9, leaving less than a week for outreach groups like NYPIRG to register as many student voters as possible. Their goal, Gormley said, is to make sure every eligible voting student is aware of how they can both register to vote and later submit their ballots.
“I definitely miss not being able to be out there, pounding the pavement everyday the way that we usually do, clipboarding and going to the dining halls,” Gormley said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom has become the new reality for NYPIRG. The group of interns and volunteers would normally be packed into the NYPIRG office on Crouse Ave. planning events, phone banking and organizing. Instead of dropping into classes to teach students how they can register to vote, request absentee ballots or plan how they will vote on Election Day, they’ve moved most of their programming online.
NYPIRG still has kept its outdoor tabling presence outside multiple Syracuse University dorms and apartment buildings. And while NYPIRG is working on its own voter outreach and registration, a new program has emerged this summer from within SU Athletics.
Lila Nazarian, a graduate student and player on the women’s lacrosse team at Syracuse, began Project 444 with two other athletes inside the organization. The goal is to register at least 444 student athletes to vote by the Oct. 9 deadline. SU Athletics has already said that Nov. 3 will be a day of no practice or events for any of the sports teams as they encourage their athletes to get involved with the voting process.
Nazarian and Gormley share the same values about the importance of getting students involved in the political process.
“This is not only a really important thing in the abstract,” Nazarian said. “But it’s incredibly important right
now in the moment that we’re living in as a country.”