Section: Features

How Kenyon students made their path to the voting booths

Encouraging the campus community to vote has long been a core component of Kenyon’s identity as a civically engaged institution. In light of the 2022 midterm election, many students have taken it upon themselves to cast their votes — some, for the very first time. 

“My family has always emphasized the importance of voting,” said Owen Rodstrom ’26, who voted for the first time via absentee ballot. “My parents definitely helped me a lot, just to get the absentee ballot, so it wasn’t a difficult process at all,” he said. “And since I’m from Ohio, especially, I thought that I should probably vote.” 

While many Kenyon students are registered to vote in Ohio, which some perceive to still be a swing state, many elected to vote in their home states this year. Henry Rodrigues ’26, who voted in Frederick County, Md., has long been interested in local issues concerning his district. “I’ve been really passionate about our school board elections, especially considering the more recent widespread sentiment that certain topics taught in school are described as being indoctrination,” he said, referring to conservative rhetoric against schools teaching critical race theory. “Addressing that is very important to me, especially having a parent who is in the education system.” Rodrigues discussed a history of competitive races in his home county, in which he feels his vote holds significant weight.

George Novotny ’23, a student associate at the Center for Study of American Democracy (CSAD) described his experience of working to get out the vote before a consequential midterm. “In terms of this year, I was particularly geared toward getting voter turnout to be as good as possible. And that meant getting people registered was my big goal,” said Novotny, who tabled at Peirce Dining Hall with other CSAD associates to register students in Ohio. 

According to CSAD, the voter participation rate at Kenyon was nearly 87% in 2020 — far larger than the average rate of about 66% amongst all colleges and universities in the United States. CSAD student associate Nicole Predina ’23 stated in an interview with the Collegian, “This highlights our students’ dedication to democratic processes as a legitimate way for their voices to be heard.” In addition to voter registration tabling, CSAD held a panel in September to bring attention to the history and impact of the 26th Amendment and to celebrate the participation of Kenyon students as voters in particular.

In addition to voter outreach, CSAD emphasizes the importance of accurate information being available to students. “Associates spent the greater part of this semester collecting information on this year’s ballot subjects and narrowed down the genuine facts on candidates and issues to create this year’s voter information guide,” Predina said. The guide can be found online at Kenyon’s Voting Information website and has been distributed throughout downtown Mount Vernon. The 56-page voter information pamphlet illustrates party affiliation in addition to information about the issues that candidates support, as well as recent state and constitutional changes. “We broke down state issues because state and constitutional changes and any data that accompanies that can be a little bit hard for people to parse together,” Novotny said. “It’s certainly difficult if you’re just looking at the ballot itself, as sometimes you lose a little bit of context, so we seek to make people as informed as possible before they vote in the polls.”

On Tuesday, various College-authorized shuttles and vans — one of which was driven by CSAD Associate Director and Political Science Professor Nancy Powers ’83 — drove students down to the Community Center where students and faculty alike cast their ballots.

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