Why WCU is Going to Win SoCon Votes

By: Joanna Woodson

Before January of this year, there was no infrastructure for voter engagement on the campus of Western Carolina University. That is, until the Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) and the Campus Vote Project (CVP) came to town. These two organizations were catalysts which set off a university-wide push to organize, mobilize, and Get Out the Vote. It did not just magically happen, however. This took months of researching, planning, observing, and lobbying to take the first steps–but these steps were all bricks which built the foundation of our success. And they are the reason why WCU will win the SoCon votes challenge–at least in the area of highest growth percentage.


In the past eight months, the team at WCU has done some pretty cool stuff–we managed to bring an early voting polling place to campus, created a volunteer pool of over 70 students, got almost every college on campus involved in the initiative, became entwined with the university’s marketing department to push social media and marketing materials, held weekly registration drives and almost 100 classroom registration drives, held educational events such as Constitutional Shark Tank and an Intentional Dialogue with a panel of experts speaking on topics about which students care deeply. This is just a sampling of what was accomplished at WCU–the list could go on, and on, and on.


This is not meant to be a post to turn the WCU Democracy Coalition into braggarts, because in the end the SoCon schools are all in this together and we must remember what the real goal is–sharing with our students the depth of power their vote has. We want to share the overwhelming magic which can happen when you get a dedicated faculty member (it also helps if he or she is brilliant, as is the case with Dr. Lane Perry), a dedicated group of stubborn but smarty-pants students who refuse to take no for an answer, and a member of university administration who is willing to lend a listening ear, like our one and only Dr. Carol Burton has done. We have come together to collectively say to the campus YOUR VOTE DOES MATTER! And as we have come together, so has the success of our movement. We have initiated the dialogue, and the campus has engaged.  


Of course, no social movement comes free of cost, and so added to our secret sauce are organizations such as Joey Wozniak’s SoCon Votes initiative, the AGF and CVP  budget allowance for ambassadors and events, and the Campus Election Engagement Project mini-grant fund. Without these organizations who still believe that one person deserves one vote, that students are nowhere close to being apathetic, and that the impetus for change comes from a small group of extra loud individuals, change would never take place–or, at least, it would be a longer, more arduous process. These organizations and the people who run them are responsible for so much collective innovative goodness–a specific shoutout here goes to Joey for his remarkable idea to create this Challenge–engaging at least 80,000 students across the Southeast.


But this brings us back to my reason for writing this. I hope that everyone involved in this campaign is excited and ready to do some work this semester, and I hope they bring their competitive spirit to the table; because Western Carolina University’s Democracy Coalition loves a good challenge, and we are so excited to win first place. Bring it on, rivals.