Group launches website, online tool to promote voter registration

Western Carolina University students, faculty and staff coordinating fall voter registration drives on campus have launched a website and online tool to make registering to vote easier for students and members of the community.

vote“We are keen to get as many of our students as possible registered to vote in accordance with the newest guidelines, some of which students may not know about,” said Aaron Marshall, a senior from Gastonia who is among students helping organize the effort with the WCU Center for Service Learning and WCU Public Policy Institute.

At the recently launched WCU voter registration drive website, students who live on campus can look up the physical “911 address” associated with the building or residence hall in which they live, which must be entered in the voter registration form in addition to a mailing address.

Students and community members also can access an online voter registration tool made possible through a partnership with consumer group NCPIRG: North Carolina Public Interest Research Group and Rock the Vote, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization committed to encouraging young people to vote.

Using the tool, participants in the fall voter registration drive coordinated by the WCU team can type the information required to register online using a smartphone, tablet or personal computers. A voter registration form with the participant’s information can then be printed immediately or accessed through a link sent by email and printed later. To complete the voter registration process, the participant then signs the printed form, which is designed to convert into a pre-addressed mailer that requires no envelope, applies a stamp, and mails it.

Alternatively, printed and signed forms also can be dropped off before Thursday, Oct. 9, at the WCU Center for Service learning in Room 273 of the Belk Building for the team coordinating the voter registration drive to submit.

The deadline to register to vote to be able to participate in the Tuesday, Nov. 4, midterm election is Friday, Oct. 10.

Marshall, who is majoring in sociology and international studies and pursuing a minor in emergency and disaster management, said he is motivated to support the voter registration drive out of a concern that students who are registered to vote may not be registered in the correct area or with the correct information, which could mean they may not be allowed to vote, said Marshall.

He also said he wants to help students recognize that the upcoming November election may not garner as much attention as a presidential election but will have a big impact on them and the university.

“We’re electing the officials which will be directly representing our interests as students and the interests of the university of which we know to be home,” said Marshall.

Todd Collins, associate professor of political science and public affairs, and director of the WCU Public Policy Institute, said those assisting with the voter registration drives want to make the registration process as clear and easy for students and community members as possible.

“Much of our mission at WCU is to instill the importance of citizenship and of making an impact in our community,” said Collins. “Voting is one important way that we all can influence the policies that govern our society. Even if people are already registered, voter education events and registration drives send the message that elections and voting are important and can increase participation rates. Whether they are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians or unaffiliated, we each have an important voice and our government is only a legitimate institution if we all have a say in the process.”

Lane Perry, director of the Center for Service Learning, concurs.

“For better or for worse, democracies for the people, by the people live and die with the people and their willingness to be an active part of it,” said Perry. “College students are at that juncture in life that can lead to a life of civic engagement or disengagement, and it is one of my goals to generate the former – civic engagement. The most elementary tool for a civically engaged citizen to wield is their right to vote – give that up and to some degree the whole idea of a democracy becomes vain.”

For more information, visit the “2014 Voter Registration” link on the Center for Service Learning’s website at servicelearning.wcu.edu or contact Perry at laneperry@wcu.edu or 828-227-2643.