A sit-down with WCLU co-president Kelli Kuhlman: voting in an off-year election

Josh Goodman

With no national races, the elections on Tuesday, Nov. 3, aren’t at the forefront of most voters’ attention, but that doesn’t mean democracy comes to a halt.  The Pioneer sat down with senior Kelli Kuhlman, co-president of the Whitman Civil Liberties Union to discuss the election. Kuhlman acknowledges that there are difficulties in driving the vote in this off-year, but is hopeful that interest in domestic partnerships and the state budget among those registered to vote in Washington will send Whitman students  to the polls.

Pioneer: What is WCLU’s overall purpose?

Kuhlman: It’s . . . to raise awareness of certain civil rights issues, but our focus is what students may be affected by. Voting rights, student rights, gender, sexual orientation, privacy, that type of thing.

Pioneer: Why do you feel that it’s important to vote this year?

Kuhlman: Democracy happens whether a president is being elected or not. It’s an ongoing process. In order to keep it ongoing, voting needs to happen every year. Even if there’s just one initiative on the ballot, it’s still pushing it forward. This country is about democracy.

Pioneer: What is WCLU doing to get out the vote in this election?

Kuhlman: I sat on tables here in Reid for a week, I’ve been passing out pins to Washington voters to approve Ref. 71, just things like that, spreading word of mouth.

Most of the members are not registered in Washington, unfortunately. My other co-president is registered in Minnesota. In the last three years I’ve helped with the voting drive that’s happened every year and I’ve helped people from out of state register for absentee ballots.

Pioneer: How do these efforts compare to other years, such as years when presidential candidates or US senators are on the ballot?

Kuhlman: Getting out the word for different initiatives and referendums last year was so much easier because people were very engaged about voting for president. The two issues on the Washington state ballot [this year] deal with state budgets and domestic partnerships. There’s not a lot of interest in voting because no major office is being elected to. And most of those people who are voting this time around are the only ones going to be voting by either measure. There’s not a lot of people I’ve come across who are going to vote who are not interested in either issue.

Pioneer: Why do you think it’s harder to get out the vote this year?

Kuhlman: A lot of people who probably will not end up voting are those who are happy with the status quo and those who take for granted the liberal policies that are in place [in locales such as King County] and don’t end up voting because they say, “it happens in King County, it’ll happen everywhere, I don’t need to vote.” But unfortunately that’s a large amount of people who don’t end up voting. Whitman is pretty active in voting, but statewide, the 18-25 [demographic] is the least represented, especially in off-year elections. It’s very unfortunate.