Denied, Warren Wilson students turn out the vote

I came to Warren Wilson College as a politically engaged student and was quickly motivated to get involved with voter outreach efforts on campus and beyond. The primary influencer was a now-famous redistricting issue dating back to 2012. The challenges caused by those changes continue to this day.

In 2012, the North Carolina legislature placed the campus within two separate districts. Because of this, students’ ability to vote was made more difficult. In a recent attempt to improve the situation, Warren Wilson students went before the Buncombe County Board of Elections and presented a proposal for an early on-campus voting site. The request was denied, but it didn’t kill our spirit. In fact, it bolstered efforts to increase voter engagement on campus.

Students in partnership with the college’s Center for Community Engagement and other local organizations came together to encourage voter registration and make the process of voting easier. Together, we offered rides to the local early voting site and two different polling locations on Election Day. We helped register new voters and ensured students had access to voter education tools.

A fellow student who deserves recognition for this effort is Matt Lederer. He is Warren Wilson’s Campus Compact election engagement fellow. Like me, he said this opportunity has taught him how to “talk to my peers about voting in a nonpartisan way, which can be a surprisingly difficult task sometimes.” Fellow students also encouraged me and others to not only focus on campus efforts but also get out into the community and reach voters. This work inspired me to tap into a deeper passion for politically engaging with the local Latinx community as well.

While everyone is coming to grips with what this election and its results mean, all indications seem to show our get-out-the-vote efforts motivated campus voter turnout. Cathy Kramer, the college’s vice president of applied learning, became a mentor to me and other students who wanted to take agency when it came to this election. Kramer has been involved in student voter registration for years, but she said “this year we have seen far earlier voting taking place.” By Nov. 4, she said most registered students had already voted, “which is a positive change from past years.”

The efforts on campus to get students involved in the election process, from canvassing, to voting and giving rides to the polls was monumental in itself. We, as students, showed our perseverance after facing rejection by the board of elections and had to deal with the difficult reality of this campus being split into two districts. But with the overwhelming amount of tenacity and agency that our professors, work supervisors and community mentors instill in us, we succeeded in getting over half of the student body to vote.

Getting students to vote is one of the things this community will always pursue in the face of any and all challenges.

Priscilla Amalia Del Aguila Vienrich is a global studies major and co-president of the Student Government Association at Warren Wilson College.