With the midterm elections approaching on Nov. 8, Bob Frigo, director of Elon University’s Kernodle Center for Civic Life, said his office and the center’s Elon Votes initiative are working to increase voter registration and accessibility across campus through nonpartisan resources and outreach.
Frigo said part of this goal will be achieved through Elon’s new early voting site in South Gym. This allows individuals from all over Alamance County to submit their ballot weeks before election day starting Oct. 20, as well as students who are registered to Alamance County. Students who are registered in a different state or neighboring county have to submit an absentee ballot by mail or return home to vote.
“Legally, college students have a choice where they can register to vote,” Frigo said. “Students can only choose one place and cast one ballot, but college students have a choice of permanent address or their college address.”
Carrie Eaves, professor of political science and faculty fellow for civil engagement, said a benefit of this new voting site, apart from easier access to voting, is that it not only serves the university, but also the rest of the community.
“Elon prides itself on being more connected to the community and hopes that it will bring more people to campus,” Eaves said. “People who live in the surrounding area can come here and vote early.”
According to Frigo, Elon’s early voting site was made possible through the Kernodle Center’s relationship with the Alamance County’s Board of Election. They worked together to make sure students have access to voting resources and remove as many voting obstacles as possible. For example, Alamance Board of Elections and the Kernodle Center have worked to correct students to not place their Elon campus box address on their registration form — as it would be invalid — and instead place their home address.
Before the early voting site was put into place, local students had to go to voting sites across Alamance County on election day to submit their ballots. Elon would provide a shuttle service to voting locations, but it was only available on election day for 12 hours. Now with the early voting site on campus, students’ window to submit their ballot has expanded as their required distance to travel has diminished.
However, the early voting site is not the only resource that students have. The Kernodle Center and Elon Votes are both nonpartisan organizations that assist students with voting. The Kernodle Center helps connect students to the rest of the community through community engagement and service learning based courses, as well as co-curriculars that assist various organizations, while Elon Votes helps get the word out that voting is accessible on campus.
For this year’s midterm elections, junior Sydney Barlow and sophomore Bo Dalrymple, coordinators of Elon Votes, said they aim to gain a more visible presence with their downstairs office. They plan on doing this by hosting a table at college coffees and downstairs Moseley Center, as well as hanging signs and digital boards throughout campus to advertise their organization.
Furthermore, Elon Votes will partner with Kernodle Center, and will host an event called Absentea in October where students can drink tea and work on their absentee ballot. On election day, they also intend to hold a viewing of the debate. When held previously for the 2016 elections, the entire first floor of Moseley was filled, according to Eaves.
“We reached about 300 students and then stopped counting,” she said.
Elon Votes tracks the impact of these events through data from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, an in-depth report used by Elon since 2012 to record voter information about the demographics of students across campus. It tracks the sex, race, age and majors of students, whether or not they are registered and how many voted during specific elections.
According to the NSLVE Report, by 2020, almost 90% of all eligible students on Elon’s campus were registered to vote — a 11% increase from 2016. The voting rate of eligible students also increased by 25% between 2016 and 2020.
“In 2020, 74% of the campus voted in the election,” Barlow said. “That was a very big data point for us.”
“First-time voters are advised to know their registration deadlines and election days for their state, as well as give themselves enough time to order and submit their ballot through the mail should they choose to vote absentee.” Dalrymple said. When students are ready to print their voter registration or absentee ballot forms, they can go to the Kernodle Center in Moseley 232 to print, stamp and send it off through the mail.
“It might feel scary,” Eaves said, “but with just a little bit of effort, everything is accessible at your fingertips and easy to achieve when voting for the first time.”
Students looking to get involved with the Kernodle Center and Elon Votes, or who have any further questions, can visit the Kernodle Center office in Moseley Center 232 or reach out through email, email@example.com.