Since when do voting and athletics mix?

By Molly Humiston

Contributing Writer

Despite my minor in political science and broad daily readings of politically oriented news, I am not a political person. I do not talk politics and if the subject comes up, I remain a neutral contributor, if I contribute at all. Often, I prefer to listen. In the months leading up to the election, my social media feeds have become inundated with political views and peers imploring their followers to vote. These posts swept away almost every other non-political post to the point that I already knew what tapping into Instagram would reveal.

Woven into my mix of friends are the accounts of student-athlete organizations on campus, including SAAC, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which acts as a connection point between the teams on campus, the college, and the NCAA. It came as no surprise when SAAC began to advocate for voting, but their message made me bristle: provide the necessary information for student-athletes, their audience, to register and ultimately vote with an aim of having all student-athletes do so.

Athletes run on competition.

Competing to win is a rallying point, a motivator, and so, with a politically oriented post at my fingertips, naturally it seemed as though SAAC had laid the grounds to compete amongst ourselves in voter turnout. Why not motivate a base of young voters who, in broad terms of young voters, do not vote, by making it a competition?

Over the months, SAAC has followed the lead of our conference, the Northeast-10 (NE-10), in their campaign to #EMBRACEyourVOTE. The campaign provides all of the necessary links to equip student-athletes with the ability to learn how to register, how to do so, and how to vote. The depth of information is admirable because it allows for student-athletes to skip the pains of setting aside time to gather the information for themselves, which is cited as a deterrent for young voters, an opportunity cost, of sorts, where our already laden schedules make itdifficult to make the time to do something else.

In seeing the SAAC initiative to equip student-athletes with the tools to have their vote counted this coming November, and as a non-political person, my own competitive side pushed back against the idea of turning a highly personal decision, voting, into a competition. While these posts never contained a particular orientation or slant toward one candidate or another, at a liberal college, we all know who that vote is for. This election is weighted so heavily because of the two candidates on the ballot and every unknown that hangs in the balance of political turmoil.

With this in mind, I sought to understand the initiative from its origin rather than simply through social media. I spoke with my team’s own representative, fellow senior, and SAAC secretary, Shelagh (Shay) Fluharty, who noted that the intent of the initiative was not at all a competition with the acknowledgement that, for various reasons, not every student-athlete, or student, for that matter, will be able to register and/or to vote. The intent was to simply provide the information, the sense of competition was all mine.

Fluharty directed me to the co-vice president of SAAC, senior member of the Men’s Ice Hockey team, Ethan Hen- drickson, who helped lead the voting initiative on campus. Our conversation emphasized and expanded on the notes Fluharty had already provided, but Hendrickson added a new layer in noting that he didn’t care enough to vote in the previous presidential election, but had he been provided the information to do so he might have.

This is a sentiment that I believe many of us can understand. If the hurdle of learning how to register and to vote is removed, we can focus on the act itself and what the candidates stand to offer. Hendrickson led an initiative around voting to help make it possible for student-athletes to care. If we care collectively, both on campus and across campuses, then our voice is amplified through our right to vote.

If all of us categorized under the broad term of “young people” vote, we wield substantial political power. According to an NPR piece, “Millennials and some members of Gen Z comprise 37% of eligible voters, roughly the same share of the electorate that baby boomers and pre-boomers make up.”

I am not a political person and I bristled at yet another group telling me that I should vote, but SAAC did what many of my friends did not, which was to enable the act through providing the information to vote.

Molly Humiston ’21 is a MJD major with a Political Science minor who plays on the Saint Michael’s Field Hockey team.