With the leaves changing and the days growing colder, many Western students are preparing to cast their votes on Election Day, Nov. 6.
A group run by the Associated Students Representation and Engagement Programs, Western Votes, has registered over 3,000 students, but their work doesn’t stop there. Their mission is to continue making it easy for students to vote this fall.
Representation and Engagement Programs staff members tabled at information fairs and around campus to try and get as many students registered to vote as possible.
Representation and Engagement Programs Director and sophomore Nora Harren said getting registered is one thing, but voting is another. She said there are many factors that make it difficult for some students to cast their ballots.
“It’s definitely hard when you’re a student [because] you have so many other things in your life going on and you have to remember, I have to vote, I got to vote Nov. 6.,” Harren said. “[And then] ‘Oh shoot! It’s Nov. 8, I missed it.’”
Harren said another factor that makes it hard to get students to vote is the common sentiment that their individual vote doesn’t matter.
Local Issues Coordinator and senior Patrick Kissinger also acknowledged this common presumption. Kissinger, a history major, said most of the major policy changes in the United States history weren’t caused by elite changemakers, but by average Americans citizens.
“There’s a common debate in history,” Kissinger said. “Who’s more important in history, George Washington or Bart Simpson? Or who was more influential in getting Americans through the Great Depression, FDR or Mickey Mouse? What really impacts our history? It really boils down to the large mass of Americans as a whole.”
However, Whatcom County Chief Deputy Auditor Diana Bradrick said midterm elections tend to have pretty low turnout even when voter registration is high among all demographics. Turnout among college students during presidential election years is high, according to Bradrick, which makes the low turnout during midterms even starker.
“We register a lot of students, but they don’t turn their ballot in,” Bradrick said. “We would love to figure out how to get students to actually turn their ballot in after they’re registered.”
Part of the reason students vote more during presidential election years is simply visibility, Bradrick said. With so many ads on the roads, the airwaves and social media, it’s hard not to know there’s an election going on or when voting day is.
“I think for other kinds of elections, students may feel like they don’t know the candidates, or they don’t know the issues, or they lose track of when election day is because it’s not as visible,” Bradrick said.
There are a few additional difficulties facing student voters this year. The ballot drop box on campus has moved. Due to ongoing construction the drop-box is no longer located by the AS bookstore. It’s in front of the Wade King Recreation Center on south campus right alongside the sidewalk.
A lack of communication about this change meant that out of four students queried for this article, only one of them knew the drop box was there. The rest thought it was still in front of the bookstore.
While there is no drop-box in front of the bookstore this year, there is a blue post office drop box, and postage is free this year. Students may also deliver their mail-in ballots to the campus post office on the fifth floor of the Viking Union.
Western Votes will also be monitoring a temporary ballot box in Red Square on Nov. 5 and 6 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Representation and Engagement Programs staff will also host an event, Donuts for Democracy, on Nov. 6 where students can bring their ballots, discuss some of the initiatives with knowledgeable staff and eat free donuts.