By: Sarah Madden, Senior Writer
In 2014, 9 percent of Wofford students voted in midterm elections, and about 65 percent were registered at the time. Allen Lollis, Wofford alumnus and resident director on campus, hopes to change these statistics.
“[Wofford Votes] started through a partnership with other SoCon institutions to address the lack of engagement and involvement in the political process on our campuses. The Southern Conference is sponsoring the SoCon Votes Challenge, and we’re taking part in it with Wofford Votes.”
The initiative is “not just about the competition,” says Lollis. “This program represents a serious effort to live up to the goals and purpose of the college.”
Wofford Votes can help students register to vote for the first time or assist them in requesting an absentee ballot. “We’re looking to increase the number of students who register to vote and who go to the polls… and help students access voter registration materials and ballots.”
Lollis says that engaging young people in the political process is important to him, especially in light of what he calls the “meager” 2014 voter turnout: “These are troubling numbers that are similar to those of other institutions around the country. Voting is too important of a right to take nonchalantly – we’ve got to do something to encourage and empower our students to engage in the political process.”
As for the success of the initiative, Lollis says he has high hopes: “I’d love to see a 100% voter registration rate and a voter turnout rate equally as high. Those numbers may seem like pie-in-the-sky thinking, but I’m very hopeful that Wofford Votes will have a meaningful impact on our campus.”
Lollis says that a strong network of support between departments might help achieve better voter turnout.
“The response we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive and so many offices on our campus are jumping on board,” he says. “We’re working with the athletics department to host events and voter registration drives, and the Office of Marketing and Communications has been an important partner in crafting our message. We look forward to working with offices like Diversity & Inclusion, Residence Life and Student Activities throughout the semester to impact as many students as possible.”
For more information, students can check the initiative website: wofford.edu/woffordvotes. “I’m more than happy to talk to anyone who wants to get more involved and I’d love to hear from students about how best to make this initiative work,” says Lollis. “My door [in the residence life office] is always open.”