Admissions Blog

How SIPA Students Engage With Midterm Election Season

By Ricardo Mondolfi '23
Posted Nov 01 2022

The 2022 midterm elections are fast approaching and they are bound to be consequential at a national and local level. Here in New York, voters will be choosing members of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, State Senate and Assembly, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, several judges, and will get to weigh in on four ballot proposals.

Being an informed voter requires a fair amount of research and engagement. At SIPA, students have long organized to promote engagement in electoral politics. 

One of the student groups active in this area is the Civic and Voter Engagement Coalition (CiVEC), currently led by Seb McAteer (MPA’23). I recently caught up with Seb to learn more about what the group is doing this election season. CiVEC will be hosting a number of events ranging from voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts to panel events discussing the impact of the midterm elections.

I also spoke with the student leaders of PolitIQ, a group dedicated to SIPA students with an interest in running for office in the future. PolitIQ recently co-hosted an event with the Technology, Media, and Communications specialization titled “Election Safety: How is the Tech Industry Safeguarding (or Not) Information During Election Contests?” The event featured Tim Decker, a founding member of Google’s Global Election Integrity Team, and Mounir Ibrahim (MIA’08), a vice president at Truepic and SIPA lecturer. The event was an example of how SIPA faculty often collaborate with student groups to host events of interest to the community.

Being at Columbia affords us the opportunity to interact with political leaders at the national and local levels. Earlier this month I attended an event with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder CC ’73, LAW ’76 in Low Library. Holder was at his alma mater to introduce his new book, “Our Unfinished March,” tracing the history of voting rights in the United States and proposing measures to ensure the right to vote is protected and accessible. All students in attendance received a signed copy of the book!

More recently, I attended a conversation with NYC Council Member Shaun Abreu CC’14, hosted by the Institute of Latin American Studies, the Political Science Department, and SIPA. Abreu joined our local Community Board as an undergraduate at Columbia, and now represents District 7 (which includes Morningside Heights and Columbia University) in the 51-member City Council. During the event, he discussed his plan to improve garbage collection in the city, the impact of New York’s ranked choice voting system, and his responsibility to his constituents as an elected official. 

Attending events with Eric Holder and Shaun Abreu – both Columbia alumni – was a great reminder that elections have consequences, and officials have the ability to make changes big and small to improve people’s lives. 

Given the remarkable global and geographical diversity of the SIPA student body, election season can also be a time to remember that many of our classmates come from places without fair electoral processes or where they are denied the right to vote. 

As a student at a global policy school with a community as vibrant as SIPA’s, you can be sure that election season does not go by unnoticed – inside or outside the classroom. 

Some recent Columbia election-related highlights: