WCU hosts early voting with campus polling place

Reviewing campus voting efforts are (from left) Jennifer Cooper, assistant director of the Center for Service Learning; Joanna Woodson, a student leader of WCU’s campus vote efforts; and Kelsey Woodford, a graduate assistant with the Center for Service Learning; as Jackson County Board of Elections officials install voting machines in the Multipurpose Room of A.K. Hinds University Center.

Reviewing campus voting efforts are (from left) Jennifer Cooper, assistant director of the Center for Service Learning; Joanna Woodson, a student leader of WCU’s campus vote efforts; and Kelsey Woodford, a graduate assistant with the Center for Service Learning; as Jackson County Board of Elections officials install voting machines in the Multipurpose Room of A.K. Hinds University Center.

Western Carolina University will have an on-campus polling place for early voting from Thursday, Oct. 27, through Saturday, Nov. 5.

It was established through the efforts of the Campus Vote Project, a campaign working to remove barriers to voting on college campuses and advocating for changes to expand access to voter registration and the voting process, and WCU’s Center for Service Learning, with assistance from the Jackson County Board of Elections.

“During early voting, registered voters can vote at any one-stop, early-voting site in the county they’ve registered in, so non-student members of the Jackson County community are welcome to vote on campus,” said Jennifer Cooper, assistant director at the Center for Service Learning.

The polling place will be located in the Multipurpose Room of A.K. Hinds University Center. Hours of operation will be:

  • 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27
  • 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28
  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29
  • Closed Sunday, Oct. 30
  • 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31
  • 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1
  • 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2
  • 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3
  • 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4
  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5

“If someone wants to cast a ballot during early voting but is not yet registered, they can take advantage of same-day voter registration,” Cooper said. “Students living on campus should bring their student ID and the poll workers will confirm their campus address. Community members and students living off-campus should bring a utility bill with their current address or a state-issued ID with their current address, like a driver’s license.” College students in North Carolina may register and vote in the county where they are attending college.

There will be directional signs for early-voter parking in campus lot 29, which is between the University Center and the bookstore, she said.

WCU students make up 25 percent of Jackson County voters and turned out for the March primaries at a higher rate than the general voting population – and all but one other college in the state. Campus Vote Project leaders said they hope to achieve a 60 percent or higher student voter turnout for the general election.

“The seeds of democracy, when planted early, can lead to a stronger, more resilient, and engaged electorate,” said Lane Perry, director of WCU’s Center for Service Learning. “We are trying to create habits of being educated and informed, registered and active, and passionate and purposeful. With respects to John Dewey (an American educator and philosopher), the future of our democracy is reinvented with each generation and we know that it is education that serves as the midwife.”

Events planned to boost registration and turnout include an NAACP-sponsored march to the polls beginning noon Oct. 27 from the main entrance to campus (in front of the H.F. Robinson Administration Building) and ending at the early voting site. The march will be part of a statewide “It’s Our Time, It’s Our Vote” campaign to register, educate and mobilize and voters in North Carolina. The WCU march will be one of more than 50 planned during the early voting period.

Another event is a “Raise Your Voice” party on Tuesday, Nov. 1, on the University Center lawn from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A performance by the band Porch 40 and a cookout will go along with an opportunity to meet local candidates and learn about issues.

“I am so excited that the election is finally upon us,” said Joanna Woodson, a student leader of WCU’s campus vote efforts. “Energy has been continually building and it is palpable all across campus. Everywhere I have gone recently, I have heard students debating, talking, arguing politics –  sometimes excitedly, sometimes less so. I think these conversations are healthy, though, because an idea or inkling or feeling does no good if it stays in a person’s head. When they feel comfortable enough to vocalize what they are thinking, they have the opportunity to expand upon their knowledge, hear other perspectives and hopefully be open-minded enough to challenge what their original thought was with something more evolved and perhaps even nuanced. As I said, I am so excited to watch our students come out in thousands to express how they want to shape our nation – from the president down to judgeships.”

For more information, visit vote.wcu.edu or call the Center for Service Learning at 828-227-7184 or Jackson County Board of Elections at 828-586-7538.