Voting initiatives on campus


Photo by Natalie Mutter.

Sara Platnick

Photo by Natalie Mutter.
Photo by Natalie Mutter.

The Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) and Walla Walla for Bernie Sanders (WWfBS) have implemented multiple measures and initiatives recently to encourage voting on all levels.

ASWC has amended the voting procedure in a new act that would extend the voting time to 44 hours. Currently, all ASWC elections are open for a 20-hour period, and the next act will more than double the time that students can vote. The act will be implemented in elections beginning in the spring of 2016.

Currently, voter turnouts for ASWC elections hovers around 50 percent, and most expect the change to increase the voter participation for these elections. However, as there is the chance that the act is not successful in increasing election turnout, it will only be implemented for a two-year trial run and later reviewed to decide if the voting period should remain extended.

“The idea [behind the act] is that will increase voter turnout. However, because that’s not guaranteed it’s a two-year trial-period in case it doesn’t work. The idea is that more students … could still be able to vote. [But] It’s possible it may backfire, but that’s why they put on the trial run,” said ASWC director of communications, senior Abby Seethoff.

The move to allow more students to vote is rooted in ASWC’s goal to get more students to participate in elections and to gain better student representation.

“I think ASWC elections are incredibly important because ultimately you are choosing the people who you want to represent students to the highest levels of the college. You’re choosing the people who you want to be the face of students in meetings with faculty, in meetings with staff, and in meetings with administrators and governing board members,” said senior and ASWC president Jack Percival.

Through the voting for ASWC senators and on ASWC resolutions, students are able to have more say in the issues that matter to them on campus.

“So in many ways, the political capital and the ability that students have to influence events at the college in terms of policy, in terms of funding priorities, hinge on the students who have been elected to represent the students, so I think because of that it’s super important that people care about these elections and vote in these elections,” Percival said.

Another group working to encourage voting in elections on a local scale is the group Walla Walla for Bernie Sanders, led in part by senior Harrison Wills. The group has many focuses, including raising awareness about the Vermont senator’s campaign, but also raising awareness about ballot issues related to the causes that Sanders fights for.

“I am circulating some petitions that are state-level ballot measures… and as I am getting signatures, a lot of students tell me, ‘I’d love to sign it, but I’m not registered to vote,’ and so I tell them ‘well this is a good incentive, because if you register to vote today, not only will you be able to vote in the general election, but you can vote on ballot measures this year, and primaries,’” Wills said.

A large part of their effort is getting students to register to vote strategically, which means registering to vote where their vote can have the most impact, especially if the voter is from the swing state. Another part of their work is talking to students of various political leanings to get them passionate about participating in all levels of elections, including local, state, and national.

“A lot of people say, well, what can one person do? And you hear these arguments. But … at the end of the day, someone is going to get elected, and we can pretend that that doesn’t matter, but it does matter, and we should think about whether it’s supporting Bernie or someone else, that’s up to you to do your research, but … I think there’s a lot of incentive for people to get involved and registered to vote right now,” said Wills.