With the election and early voting looming, faculty and student activists are scrambling to find ways to make resources more accessible to students as they navigate the voting process.
Rebecca Kreutzer, associate professor of public policy at UNC, believes many students are interested in politics, but may struggle when it comes to voting.
“Young people are interested in politics, but they don’t always vote. And so I’m very interested in the difference between who votes and who doesn’t, and why some people vote and others don’t,” she said.
Kreutzer’s research found that both the influence of political socialization and knowledge of the voting process were important factors in determining whether or not a student would vote. To attract both first-time voters and those with questions, she and Whitney Manzo, associate professor of political science at Meredith College, created a website to provide information in an accessible and direct manner.
Their website offers people a list of questions to help them find out important details such as their polling stations, sample ballot and registration status. It can also help answer questions about Election Day, such as how to find out if their vote was counted. Manzo said she hopes the resource will increase voter turnout both now and in future elections.
“We wanted to create a simple space to answer basic questions and offer guides for additional information to help people build their voting and election vocabulary,” Manzo said in an email. “Political studies show that if someone has voted at least once, they are more likely to vote in the future.
She said if a group can encourage just one person to go vote, they can help increase voter turnout now and in the future.
UNC freshman Martha Plan is the phone banking coordinator and secretary of the New Voters Project for the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group. She is an ardent supporter of the student vote and first became interested in voting at the encouragement of her parents, who gave her a voter registration form as a present on her 18th birthday.
“I firmly believe that we are voting for our future. It’s like we use our vote to vote and then our vote to have power in our government,” Plan said. “And the other thing, which is probably more of a reason why I vote, is that I truly believe that voting is a privilege. “
In this election, students will not only be voting in Chapel Hill, as some students who are registered in their home county or state will be voting by absentee ballot. This can cause complications, from meeting deadlines to finding stamps to mail ballots.
Jerry Cohen, an adjunct professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a member of the Wake County Board of Elections, said he worries such difficulties will prevent students from getting their votes in on time. But for students who live on campus, he said registering at Chapel Hill is relatively easy.
“One of the most important things if you’re a student on campus is that if you’re not already registered, you can register by going to early voting and registering on-site,” he said. “And all you need, the show is your OneCard. Because it shows that they can search your place of residence.”
This applies to any student living in any residence hall on campus, including Grenville Towers.
For more information, students can visit the Kreutzer and Manzo website for a voting guide or the Orange County website for more information on early voting. The closest early voting polling place to campus is Chapel of the Cross at 304 E. Franklin Street.
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