Centre community and politicians aim to register all students to vote
Since the announcement that Centre will be hosting the Vice Presidential Debate on Oct. 11, members of the Centre community have been working to get as many people as possible politically involved. A new student voter registration on campus led by the Student Government Association (SGA) and Bonner Scholars Program aims to get all Centre students prepared for the upcoming general election.
“Every Centre student recognizes that the debate is a once in a lifetime opportunity—it’s certainly something we’ll remember as a highlight of our college careers,” says SGA President Patrick Cho ’13. “SGA wanted to do something that applied to every student on campus, regardless of party or politics, to advantage of the opportunity the debate provided. I talked to Patrick Noltemeyer [associate dean and director of community service and Bonner program], and we thought this would be a good area to collaborate on.”
While looking for ways to make student voter registration easy and efficient, Noltemeyer came across TurboVote, an online registration system.
“The Bonner Program and SGA had been planning to implement large voter registration initiative on campus in advance of the debate, and the TurboVote system takes care of much of the logistical and behind-the-scenes work required to get people registered to vote,” says Noltemeyer. “TurboVote provides a cobranded, user-friendly interface that makes it easy for any of our students to register to vote—either in Boyle County or in their hometown—or to request an absentee ballot. The system also provides helpful email and text reminders to students who register with the system leading up to the general election in November.”
“Students today are used to efficiency and immediate results due to modern technology and this system will make registering to vote more appealing,” says Community Service Coordinator Kara Beer. “We already have noticed a very positive response and are excited to see if we can reach our goal of 100 percent voter participation of eligible students on campus.”
The goal of 100 percent student participation sets the bar high, but those involved are confident about the initiative’s success.
“It’s the job of SGA to reach out to every student, which is why we’re setting a goal of 100 percent participation,” says Cho. “This is an opportunity to promote good citizenship here at home.”
Though the initiative has only just begun, students are already taking advantage of TurboVote.
“Reaction so far has been very positive, and to date we have had 221 students register to use the system, from 23 different states,” Noltemeyer says.
The Bonner Scholars have branched out beyond campus to promote voter registration throughout Danville as well.
“Students hosted a voter registration drive within the community in an effort to encourage voter participation in the upcoming election,” says Beer. “The students were able to engage with community members about the debate and learn about the views of their neighbors in Danville. It was a good chance for those in Danville to register to vote and served as a great learning experience.”
Students will be able to register with TurboVote at the Activities Expo from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, August 30 on West Walnut Street. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes will be there at the registration table—hosted by the Centre Democrats and Centre Republicans—to discuss the importance of voter registration.
“The Secretary of State has always taken an interest in youth politics, regardless of affiliation, as well as in expanding voter registration and voting rights,” says David Miller ’13, president of the Centre Democrats. “She has been a tireless advocate to ensure voting rights are maintained for all. It’s wonderful see her take an interest in registration in our community.
“What got them interested in Centre was the goal of 100 percent registration leading up to the debate,” Miller continues. “It is an incredibly interesting goal, and they want to do all they can to help.”
The Centre Democrats and Centre Republicans decided to collaborate about voter registration because of its all-encompassing importance that transcends party lines.
“Besides supporting our respective candidates and their platforms, we both want to push hard to involve and engage the Centre student body in the political conversation leading up to the November elections,” says Luke Wetton ’14, president of the Centre Republicans.
The voting initiative also drew the interest of another political figure familiar to Kentucky: Trey Grayson, former secretary of state and current director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Grayson will speak on campus on Thursday, Oct. 4.
“Grayson is on the board of TurboVote, and has done a lot of work with young people’s engagement in politics,” says Cho. “We’re looking forward to him being here.”
All in all, those involved hope that the registration initiative will draw attention to the importance of being politically involved.
“Even if you don’t plan on voting, it’s incredibly important to get registered to vote,” Miller says. “It’s not a right that we should take for granted—it’s a responsibility and a duty, not just to us, but to the Commonwealth and as Americans.”