College Democrats Call for Admin Action

(College Democrats)

Contributing Writers

 

Tuesday, Nov. 2, was election day. Across the country, people voted to fill offices ranging from governor to mayor, as well as local down-ballot seats. Here in Wooster, voters elected new school board and city council members as well as enacted a tax levy. It was also an election with historic firsts—for instance, Michelle Wu became Boston’s first elected woman mayor while Aftab Pureval became the first Asian-American mayor of Cincinnati. 

Unfortunately, off-year elections like this one receive less attention and lower voter turnout. College Democrats, in conjunction with other civic and service engagement organizations, organize voter registration each semester. Over the years, we have noticed that voter registration numbers dip in non-general election years. That also occurred this year, which, while disappointing, was not necessarily surprising. 

What was surprising, however, was the College’s lack of support in helping the campus community vote. We understand that admin and staff are very busy and that responsibilities have changed hands due to turnover. We should also note that after the College Democrats executive board members brought certain voting related issues to the administration’s attention, they were very receptive to improving this process for the future. Yet, it is unacceptable that information about voting did not get sent out until the afternoon before election day, and that there was no assistance from administration in conducting voter registration. Furthermore, the utility bills sent out last-minute were difficult to access and often incorrect, jeopardizing students’ ability to vote. If College Democrats’ executive board did not make voter registration a priority and then recruited volunteers from our club, Wooster’s NAACP, the Leftists of Wooster and College Republicans, it is likely there would have been no voter registration drive at all. If our executive board and volunteers did not keep track of forms and information by lugging a bag of supplies around campus to set up at random tables in Lowry, drive completed forms down to the Board of Elections or provide essential information to students, there would be fewer people on this campus registered to vote. 

Voters also had to contend with limited transportation to the polls. In years past, shuttles to and from voting locations were available, and we have heard from students that the lack of shuttles this year led to their inability to vote. Even though we registered sixty new voters on campus, those students still may not have been able to cast their vote due to lack of access to the polls. 

Students cannot be solely responsible for voter education on campus. When we graduate, who will take it over? College Democrats are more than happy to volunteer our time for voter registration, but we need institutional support. In an election of small margins (this year’s tax levy passed by only nine votes!), every vote counts and local elections are critical to determining policy that impacts this campus. Voting is not some fun club activity, but something that affects every student. While other colleges like Oberlin and Otterbein University are considered Voter-Friendly Campuses in Ohio, Wooster is not on that list — and without a concerted effort from the College to help students vote, it’s not hard to see why. 

Wooster prides itself on being a civically engaged campus and frequently encourages students to use their voices. Going forward, we hope that means the admin will do better to help students vote during every election.