On National Voter Registration Day, UConn students take aim at 2020 election

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Students register to vote on the UConn campus on Tuesday, which was National Voter Registration Day.
Students register to vote on the UConn campus on Tuesday, which was National Voter Registration Day. (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)

“Are you registered to vote?” UConn students called out to their classmates on the plaza outside the Homer Babbidge Library on Tuesday morning.

It was National Voter Registration Day and students working with UConnPIRG, a statewide advocacy group, crisscrossed Fairfield Way with clipboards in hand, attempting to increase student voter turnout.

Last year, the group registered 2,000 new voters for the midterm elections and significantly increased turnout at the Mansfield Community Center, organizers said. On Tuesday, organizers secured 50 registrations in their first two hours of work and were hopeful they could register 250 voters by the end of the day.

For those who registered to vote, the 2020 election still seems a long time away, and most were still undecided. But issues like climate change, student loan debt, and rights for minority groups ranked high on their political priorities.

Irsal Tomasati, 20, a UConn junior from West Haven.
Irsal Tomasati, 20, a UConn junior from West Haven. (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)

Isral Tomasati, 20

Tomasati, a junior from West Haven who registered to vote Tuesday, said he supported Democratic candidate Andrew Yang.

“He understands that America is going to go into an automated economy,” Tomasati said of Yang. “He has a plan to make more affordable housing for normal people. Also, Asian pride!”

Tomasati, who was unaffiliated, said that there have “definitely been some blunders” under the Trump administration, and that he did not support President Trump’s rhetoric.

“But I’m not against what he’s done for the economy,” he added.

Roselyn Anyah, 20, a UConn junior from Ellington.
Roselyn Anyah, 20, a UConn junior from Ellington. (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)

Roselyne Anyah, 20

Anyah, a junior studying psychology, stopped by to change the address of her voter registration. She said that she had watched her hometown of Ellington change in the years since the 2016 election.[Related] Bridgeport Diocese report on sex abuse among priests blames former Archbishop Edward Egan; nearly 300 individuals abused by 71 priests since 1953 »

“There’s been a rise in racist ideology,” she said, which she thought mirrored the rise of white supremacist groups nationwide.

For her, the most important issues in the upcoming election were immigrants’ rights, reproductive rights, and minority rights, she said. She was particularly interested in the campaigns of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

But as the election nears, she said, “there’s definitely uncertainty.”

Storrs, CT - 9/24/19 - Joseph Iovine, 22, a UConn graduate student from New Jersey.
Storrs, CT – 9/24/19 – Joseph Iovine, 22, a UConn graduate student from New Jersey. (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)

Joseph Iovine, 22

Iovine, a first-year doctoral student in the molecular and cellular biology department, said student loan debt ranked highest among issues in the upcoming election.

Iovine said that although UConn treats its grad students “like royalty,” he had taken out student loans for his undergraduate degree in New Jersey.[Related] Say hello to Leatherface, Freddy and Jason: Haunt on Eden pays homage to horror icons of the ’70 and ’80s »

“I think that it’s one of the main reasons why young people get into financial troubles,” he said. “They get into debt and it follows them for the rest of their life.”

He stressed the importance of ensuring that young people vote, since they are often underrepresented in the polls. But as far as the 2020 election goes, he did not yet have a favorite candidate in mind.

“I just hope that Trump doesn’t get reelected. If that doesn’t happen, I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “I think the Democratic Party needs a strong leader. Right now, there isn’t one yet.”

Storrs, CT - 9/24/19 - Dan Folchick, 20, a UConn junior from Trumbull.
Storrs, CT – 9/24/19 – Dan Folchick, 20, a UConn junior from Trumbull. (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)

Dan Folchick, 20

Folchick, a junior from from Trumbull studying communications, registered to vote “because they asked and it was convenient.” He had not yet committed to a party, he said. But he knew that his main consideration in the upcoming election would be how candidates proposed confronting climate change.

“With global warming and everything, all the scientists are saying that we only have a couple of years to make a change before it’s catastrophic,” Folchick said.

Storrs, CT - 9/24/19 - Sidney Peralta, 21, a UConn senior, from Waterbury.
Storrs, CT – 9/24/19 – Sidney Peralta, 21, a UConn senior, from Waterbury. (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)

Sidney Peralta, 21

“My mom texted me this morning and told me to register to vote,” said Peralta, a senior from Waterbury. “I also registered because I’m not happy with the people we have.”

Peralta said that she was not affiliated with a party, but that for her, the biggest issues were climate change and the deportation of migrants attempting to live in the United States.

Joseph McNamara, right, a 20 year old UConn senior from Farmington, changes his political party at a voter registration booth on campus Tuesday. He is being helped by UConnPIRG intern Peyton Marie DeLorenzo Pease.
Joseph McNamara, right, a 20 year old UConn senior from Farmington, changes his political party at a voter registration booth on campus Tuesday. He is being helped by UConnPIRG intern Peyton Marie DeLorenzo Pease. (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)

Joseph McNamara, 20

McNamara, a senior from Farmington, studying economics and history, stopped by the tent to change his registration from the Republican to the Democratic Party.

“I started to think for myself, and thought, ‘What’s going on here?’”

He said he had been drawn to President Trump in 2016 but in the past few years he had grown disillusioned with what he saw as the lack of transparency and competency in the Trump administration.[Related] Connecticut Attorney General William Tong sees job as battling ‘profound threat’ of Trump administration »

“Climate change is the biggest issue right now to the world,” he said. “If you want everyone to survive on this planet, you’ll have to do something about it right now. I’ll try my best by voting, by getting to the polls.”

Eliza Fawcett is working on the Tribune’s Metro Desk this summer. She is a recent graduate of Yale University and has previously reported for the Los Angeles Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.