Walla Walla City Council and School Board elections approach

Naia Willemsen, Reporter

While 2021 is not a major election year, there is still an opportunity to vote in the Walla Walla City Council and school board race.

Many Whitman students face the question of where they can vote. Most are registered in their hometowns, but according to co-president of Whitman Votes and program leader for Whitman Teaches the Movement (WTTM) Merry Cockroft, they can choose to change their registration to their Walla Walla address.

“They can change their voter registration for this election, or however many elections they want, and they can change it back if they move away or if they want to vote absentee from their home,” Cockroft said. “You obviously can’t vote in two places at once, but it’s definitely okay for students to change their voter registration depending on where they want to vote.”

Cockroft, alongside Whitman Votes co-president Genevieve Vogel, is working to support young voters and encourage them to vote in the Walla Walla local elections this fall.

Whitman Votes held a voter registration drive on Sept. 28 where they helped students register to vote. In addition, WTTM, in collaboration with Whitman Debate, Whitman Votes and the rhetoric department, will be hosting a town hall webinar with five of the six city council candidates on Oct. 14.

The town hall will feature questions submitted by students, both from Whitman and local Walla Walla high schools.

“We’re really trying to make Whitman a resource for the community, especially by supporting young voters who are at Whitman and at our local high schools and getting them excited to vote and be involved in the community,” Cockroft said.

The primary election was held on Aug. 3. For City Council Position 2 (Central Ward), Adam Kirtley earned 62 percent of the vote, while Brian Casey received 32 percent, according to the county auditor. Candidates for City Council Position 3 (At Large) Gustavo Reyna and Rick Phillips got 47 and 35 percent of the votes, respectively. For School Director Position 2, incumbent Terri Trick won 49 percent of the votes and James Stovall won 30 percent.

Even though most Whitman students aren’t originally from Walla Walla, Vogel feels it’s still important to get involved in local elections.

“I know we’re only here for four years, but [Walla Walla] is our home while we are here. We do care about the safety of our campus and that has to do with the police here and emergency services that are funded by our town….It’s more than just voting, in my opinion. It’s also about our role here as a college,” Vogel said. 

The city council members who are voted in will be in charge of selecting Walla Walla’s new police chief, along with distributing funding and resources such as COVID-19 vaccines. Even though it’s a nonpartisan race, candidates “have tied themselves to political parties, which… is interesting and something to look out for,” according to Cockroft.

Whitman Votes, in collaboration with WTTM, created a website to serve as a resource for students. The general election will be held on Nov. 2, 2021, and more coverage of the candidates can be found on the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin’s website.