Western Carolina University has been selected as one of “America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting in 2019” by Washington Monthly, a nonprofit magazine that covers government and political issues.
WCU is one of four universities in North Carolina to receive the recognition, based on student voter turnout rates and civic engagement activities, and will be included in “College Guide and Rankings,” a new publication by the magazine that rates colleges and universities on contributions to social mobility, research and public service.
WCU student voting nearly doubled from the 2014 midterm election to the 2018 midterm election. While that was a significant achievement in itself, the more important factor is that people who take part in elections at an early age are more likely to become lifelong voters, said Lane Perry, executive director of WCU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.
“The single votes of today are the perpetual, civically engaged habits of the future,” Perry said. “Our democracy and its sustainability depend on our youth’s engagement today and the habits they establish to inform tomorrow.”
In addition to voter registration drives, WCU has hosted a precinct polling place through the Jackson County Board of Elections and held numerous election year activities, such as open-to-the-public candidate forums and information sessions.
“Youth are our future, and we must invest in our future,” said Lisa Lovedahl, director of the local board of elections. “The time and effort we invest today in providing access to voting will pay off with tomorrow’s community involvement. The increase in voter participation by students is proof they will take advance of opportunities, if provided.”
Voter awareness and engagement efforts are led by WCU’s Student Democracy Coalition, a nonpartisan civic action group that has received state and national honors for its work. Students team with nonpartisan external partners including the Andrew Goodman Foundation and North Carolina Campus Compact.
“It feels amazing to know that the work we’ve done has contributed to more students voting on campus,” said Hannah Fraser, a senior from Apex majoring in political science and sociology. The Student Government Association senator and Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere Ambassador, distributed a petition to adopt online voter registration in North Carolina, and collected more than 500 signatures at WCU. “Being able to see that increase makes me even more excited for 2020,” she said.
WCU also has been designated a “Voter Friendly Campus” for 2019-20 by the Campus Vote Project and Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, a pair of national nonpartisan organizations. It was the second consecutive time the university garnered the designation.
For more information on student voting at WCU, contact the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at 828-227-7184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.