Western Carolina University students will kick off the Cullowhee Voter Initiative, a nonpartisan effort to improve voter education and participation in Jackson County, with a voter registration drive and student debate on campus Thursday, Feb. 23.
A second event, a debate in which members of the North Carolina General Assembly are scheduled to participate, will take place in the theater of WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center on Monday, March 5, at 6 p.m. Student organizers said additional events will be planned in Jackson County.
“We want to educate students and members of the community in a nonpartisan way about the important issues that will be on the ballot in May, get them registered to vote and then provide easy transportation to polling stations in both May and November,” said Seth Crockett, a senior from Whittier majoring in political science who serves on the Honors College Board of Directors.
In addition to political primaries, the May election will include an amendment that would add language providing that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union valid or recognized in the state and the Jackson County alcohol referendum that would allow sales countywide.
Anderson Miller, a senior from Candler majoring in philosophy and international studies, said he co-founded the Cullowhee Voter Initiative with Crockett after becoming keenly aware in the last year of how much his life is affected by the decisions made by local, state and national officials.
Both also said they were particularly motivated to develop the Cullowhee Voter Initiative by voter turnout figures in Jackson County, especially from 2010, that they believe could be better. Turnout among registered voters ages 18 to 25 in Jackson County in 2010 was 17 percent, while turnout was 27 percent for voters ages 26 to 40, 55 percent for voters ages 41 to 65, and 60 percent for voters ages 60 and above, according to statistics posted by the organization Democracy North Carolina.
Miller and Crockett formed a nonpartisan steering committee of six students to lead the initiative, and their first goal is to register 1,000 people to vote before April.
“This effort crosses political divides,” said Crockett. “The Cullowhee Voter Initiative is about giving people a voice and empowering them to shape the future of their community and their government. Our core mission is to inform citizens of the issues and get them to vote, regardless of how they vote.”