The November election is closing in fast with 46 days left until students will be able to enter the voting booth. The last day to register to vote is even closer, at only 24 days away: October 15.
The Student Assembly has led the charge in voter registration on campus, already registering 503 students, according to the SA’s Director of Voter Registration Zach Woodward ’14.
Factoring in other student organizations’ voter registration drives, over 1,000 students have registered to vote on campus since late August.
“Since freshman move-in, W&M for Obama has registered hundreds of students of all political stripes to vote in Williamsburg,” Noah Kim ’13, Organizing Fellow for the group William & Mary for Obama, said in an email. “We will continue to register new voters locally until the Virginia deadline on October 15th because, as half the population of Williamsburg, students will decide which way the City of Williamsburg goes in November.”
The importance of voter registration has even broken down some partisan barriers.
“As an organization we believe in offering everyone the opportunity to vote. Keeping track of numbers or achieving quotas is not our main purpose,” Young Americans for Romney Chair Madelaine Spangler ‘13 and Students for Romney Chair David Branton ’13 said in an email. “Although we have registered quite a few students on campus, we do not think that we should only register those who side with us politically. Voter access and the preservation of free elections is fundamentally more important.”
Many of these newly registered students in Williamsburg are not even first time voters.
“I would say the majority of students seem to change their registration from some other place, but I would say about a quarter of those registered thus far have never registered to vote before,” Woodward said.
Some students are choosing to vote absentee while at school, since the College of William and Mary will be a closely watched swing state during this election cycle.
“If you are from out of state it just seems to make sense to register in Virginia since it is a swing-state in this presidential election, which is why I vote here in Virginia instead of California,” Student Assembly Vice President Melanie Levine ’13 said.
Levine added that is it important to register not only for the presidential election, but also for the entirety of a student’s time in Williamsburg.
“It’s important to register in Williamsburg because the four years you are in college you are a citizen of Williamsburg, and the students’ voices are important because we are such a big part of the city,” Levine said. “It is important to maintain a level of involvement that is important and impactful.”
In order to reach freshman at the College, the SA launched a “Freshman Hall Captains Program.”
“We have also started our Freshman Hall Captains Program to get freshmen trained on how to register students to vote so that they can register their fellow residents to vote on campus,” Woodward said. “We have been very happy with that program thus far. Last semester we had one freshman on every freshman hall trained and able to register their fellow residents, and we hope to do the same this year.”
In addition, the SA hopes reach beyond campus to the William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law as well as the William and Mary School of Education.
“[The Student Assembly is] teaming up with the Election Law Society on the Law School campus to help register the law students,” Woodward said. “We are currently looking at holding voter registration drives on the School of Education campus as well.”