Williamsburg voters are now over 1,000 strong at the College.
p. Last fall, the Student Assembly passed the Williamsburg Civic Engagement Act, which allowed students be paid 10 dollars for each other student they register to vote in the city of Williamsburg.
That program and previous SA voter registration drives have registered over 1,000 students to date, making the student body 14 percent of the 7,000 registered Williamsburg voters.
p. The WCEA alone has registered approximately 200 students. It allocated $15,000 for funding.
p. “I do not see the money running out based on progress so far,” bill co-sponsor Senate Chairman Matt Beato’09 said. More students are expected to become involved as a “dorm storming” campaign, expected to begin soon, will heavily advertise the program.
So far no cases of students abusing the program, such as splitting the 10 dollars between the student registering and the student being registered, have been reported.
p. In an interview, SA President Zach Pilchen ’09 talked about the SA’s two strategies to get more students involved in Williamsburg politics: on-campus registration programs such as the WCEA and off-campus efforts to work with local officials in hiring a registrar receptive to student’s voting rights.
p. Pilchen said that the city was embarrassing with their student voting policy from 2004 to 2007, he said.
p. Pilchen cited his own experience of having to argue with the city registrar for an hour to be able to register to vote two years ago.
“Serious candidates will appeal to students,” Pilchen said, referring to the 1,000-strong student voting body. “Any candidate who ignores us will lose in May,” he added.
p. Beato also expressed optimism regarding the May local elections and the power of the student body.
p. “A majority of the potential candidates have actually contacted [Pilchen] or myself to sit down and talk about their platforms and what we’re interested in seeing, which did not happen in 2006 or 2004, to my knowledge,” he said.
p. “It’s amazing how much more willing people are to listen when you’ve registered a lot of voters.”
p. SA senator Sarah Rojas ’10, who also worked on the drive, said that the drive will help break down alleged town/gown friction.
“For far too long, there has been this stereotype that the city is against the students and that the students are against the city,” she said. “We see this voter registration drive as a way to end that miscommunication and work to make Williamsburg the best home it can be for everyone.”