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Students and faculty come together to increase voter turnout

Students and faculty come together to increase voter turnout

Student organizations helped 200 students register to vote this election season. | SARA HALEBLIAN

With Election Day five days away, student groups and campus committees continue efforts to boost Kenyon student voter turnout. In order to ensure that students’ votes are counted, an ad hoc committee formed by Kenyon faculty has encouraged students to vote early and in person.

Faculty publicly declared their support for student voting by passing a resolution, publicized in a Sept. 22 email, that encouraged every community member to participate in this year’s elections. Moreover, this past summer, the faculty voted to create the ad hoc committee to promote student voting at Kenyon. Assistant Professor of Political Science and Assistant Director of the Center for the Study of American Democracy Nancy Powers serves as the committee chair, with Katelyn Schwartz ’21, president of Kenyon’s chapter of Every Vote Counts (EVC), serving as the student co-chair. 

In addition to EVC, both Kenyon Republicans and Kenyon Democrats have joined the committee’s efforts.

“There’s nothing partisan or political about getting people to be active in the democracy that they live in,” Powers said.

A number of student groups have also distributed voting information to the Kenyon community, including instructions on how to register, how to vote by mail and how to vote in person. The College even has sections of its website dedicated to civic engagement and voter information.

Despite high registration rates for past elections, Schwartz says there has been a disparity between registration and voter turnout this year. According to her, 200 new voters had registered on campus by Ohio’s voter registration deadline.

“A huge obstacle we saw going into this year was that the upperclassmen tend to head leadership roles and take on this civic engagement position at Kenyon,” Schwartz said. “So we really just wanted to empower the on-campus students to register to vote.”

To encourage people to vote, EVC has employed a peer-to-peer messaging system to engage underclass students. The group also partnered with other student organizations, such as hosting voting-themed trivia with the Social Board to increase student engagement with the election. EVC also plans to host debriefing sessions after Election Day to help students process election results.

Powers noted that, ultimately, all of these programs and initiatives cannot make anyone vote. There is only one person who can — the voter.

“We’re trying to facilitate it, encourage it, explain why it’s important, provide information on how to do it and what’s on your ballot,” Powers said. “But at the end of the day, you get to vote because you’re an adult, and it’s on you.”

Professor of Biology Joan Slonczewski, who has a history of political activism, encourages all students to act without delay, as they believe that the importance of this election cannot be overstated.

“If you’re registered in Gambier, you can go early today,” Slonczewski said. “If you’re voting in another state, do it today. … Make sure that your vote gets counted in the most important election of our lifetime.”

 

Those looking to vote prior to Election Day can do so at the Knox County Board of Elections at 104 East Sugar Street.

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