Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Voting at Whitman

Illustration by Payton Davies

On Nov. 7, 2023, elections were held across the nation and in Walla Walla County. Multiple School Director Positions, along with City Council positions, and Port Commissioners were on the ballot. Students at Whitman continue to engage with local politics through student organizations and encouragement from passionate peers to participate in the voting process. 

Max Barth is one of the leaders of Whitman Votes, a non-partisan voter registration organization that focuses on voting rights.

“We’re not partisan at all. We’re just here to encourage people to register to vote and to vote wherever they call home in the U.S.,” Barth said. 

Barth spoke about the changes in Whitman Votes and their varying impact on campus. Even as a sophomore student, Barth emphasized that the shifts from year-to-year are substantial. 

“In the past, [Whitman Votes] held debates in the basement of Reid, and worked with candidates, so it seemed like [Whitman Votes] was a lot larger in election years, especially Presidential elections more so than local ones, such as this year,” Barth said. 

Barth believes that Whitman Votes tends to have more of an impact during the more polarizing elections. 

“We’re picking up steam now especially because of the presidential elections next year,” Barth said.

Whitman Votes provides resources at their table events across campus, where they hand-out Washington State Voter Registration forms, and continue to encourage students to participate in upcoming elections. 

Sophomore Cleopatra Nabyonga is President of Women of Color Voices (WOCV), an affinity group on Whitman’s campus that, according to the group’s website, seeks to transform the way in which women of color are represented. 

“My interactions with Whitman Votes have enforced interactions with a group of people who are knowledgeable and passionate about voting on campus,” said Nabyonga.

Voting has always been a personal issue for Nabyonga, and she said that she has and will continue to participate, just not in Walla Walla. 

“I vote in Texas … It’s had a lot of legislation coming through as of late that has affected minorities and women in particular, especially with the recent Roe v. Wade situation along with Planned Parenthood,” Nabyonga said. 

Nabyonga added that what motivates her to vote in Texas instead of Walla Walla is also the personal connections she has at home. 

“I have friends who have suffered at the hands of recent medical legislation, and I’ve personally been in about three school shootings,” Nabyonga said. “As someone who has siblings that still go to school there, it eases me to know that I’m here voting for them since they can’t vote yet, they don’t have a say [in] what goes into effect.”

Despite voting in Texas, Nabyonga believes it is important to be aware of policy and elections in Washington State as well.

“I definitely care about local elections here, especially when it comes to educational leadership, that matters a lot,” Nabyonga said. “Particularly at a PWI [Predominantly White Institution] like Whitman, you have to consider where the rest of the students are from, and why they might want to use their vote in places where they feel they have a bigger impact.” 

First-year Zack Wood is a Walla Walla native who is excited to see Whitman Votes drumming up student interest. 

“I’m really excited about how much we’re engaging students, especially in local politics,” Wood said. “Everyone’s voice matters and everyone’s vote can make a difference, and college students are no exception.”

Wood said he’s particularly interested in the School Director positions up for election given the amount of influence they’ll have on Walla Walla’s next generation of young adults.

“It’ll be an important race, and I’m happy to see Whitman Votes providing students with materials to educate themselves,” Wood said. “It’s important to be engaged, and as these elections get close you have to stay engaged as a student, even if it doesn’t seem like it’ll affect you.”

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