Study away students frustrated with NYU Votes miscommunication

Students at NYU Buenos Aires and other study abroad sites did not receive information or resources from the university to request absentee ballots and vote in the recent U.S. midterm elections.

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Aaliya Luthra

Eligible U.S. voters at NYU study away sites can vote through the absentee voting system. (Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

Sade Collier, Staff Writer

Students studying away at NYU Buenos Aires and other abroad sites, many of whom are eligible voters, said they were not informed by the university about how to vote in the U.S. midterm elections.

NYU Votes, an initiative aimed at increasing college student voter turnout, typically sends resources to students to encourage them to cast their ballots. However, a week before Election Day, students and staff at NYU Buenos Aires noticed how there had been no communications about how to vote abroad.

“It appears that a miscommunication occurred in the creation of the mailing list for these emails, which resulted in them not reaching students studying away,” Jason Hollander, the co-director of NYU Votes, wrote to WSN. 

Hollander said the emails that NYU Votes regularly sends to students may be bothersome, but they are meant to be a consistent reminder of how students should be regular voters. These emails contain information helping students participate in regional, state and national elections, and request and submit an absentee ballot. 

Despite the high stakes of the recent elections, being abroad makes it difficult for students to feel connected to the political climate in the U.S. CAS junior Leah El-Ouazzane, who is studying in Buenos Aires and voted in the midterm elections, said she experienced a feeling of detachment — similar to other students who spoke to WSN.

“I’m not really thinking about it since I’m here,” said CAS junior Leah El-Ouazzane, who is studying in Buenos Aires. “Being in the country has a big impact on how much you hear about stuff and how important you feel like it is.”

In addition to feeling removed from elections taking place abroad, half of NYU students who were eligible to vote did not plan on casting their ballots when asked by WSN ahead of the election. The rate at NYU Buenos Aires is even lower, with only several students voting in the midterm elections.

“It’s not something I pay very much attention to,” said CAS junior Ari Mehlman, who is also at NYU Buenos Aires, in regard to the midterm elections. 

Mehlman only remembered he could vote from abroad in the most recent elections after his mother texted and asked him about requesting an absentee ballot. He said that more communication and accessible voting methods this semester from the university would have likely prompted his participation in this election season. 

“If somehow I had received in the mail an absentee ballot, I totally would’ve voted,” Mehlman said. 

Steinhardt senior Iyoniah Teague, who is currently at NYU Prague, said that she also did not receive any communications from NYU Votes besides a universitywide email on Election Day. After receiving the email, Hollander realized that students studying away may have been excluded from the general mailing list. 

“When you’re studying abroad it’s easy to forget about the rest of the world, to forget about the United States,” Teague said.

Teague is a regular voter, but like many other people, she is most concerned about presidential elections. She said she only encountered one voting campaign at her study abroad site, and without an official reminder, voting slipped her mind. 

“If I were in New York, I’d have a better opportunity to vote because I’d have people around me reminding me to vote,” Teague said. “Being here, I don’t know what’s going on in the United States besides what my parents text me or from social media.” 

At NYU Buenos Aires, staff typically hold campaigns to encourage students to vote. For the past seven years, a representative from the U.S. Embassy has visited the campus to inform students about voting abroad from Buenos Aires and to collect ballots before elections. However, even the site-specific voting initiatives fell short this semester.

Paula Di Marzo, the assistant director of Student Life at NYU Buenos Aires, said that the site received sparse communications from the embassy. She added that it took weeks before the university was able to inform students that no representative would come to discuss how to vote. 

Di Marzo forwarded an email from the U.S. Embassy to students on Oct. 28, which detailed how to drop off ballots — seven days, excluding weekends, until the midterm elections. In the email, the embassy noted that it could take up to four weeks for ballots to reach their respective states, leaving many students with limited time to request an absentee ballot and vote on time.

Di Marzo told WSN that she was also not informed about the lack of communications to students from NYU Votes. In the past, she had noticed a high voter turnout among students studying away at NYU Buenos Aires, especially in the 2020 presidential election, which saw record levels of student participation.

Hollander said that NYU Votes will ensure any miscommunication to students does not happen in the future.

“While I wish that more communications had reached the students in Buenos Aires, our hope is that the NYU Votes effort ultimately complements the interest that students have, and the initiative they take, in the voting process,” Hollander said. 

Contact Sade Collier at [email protected]