Brittany Greenwell could hardly wait to be old enough to register to vote. “I was really excited. I was waiting for that day.”
She realized later that not everyone is that passionate about the right to cast a ballot but still thinks they should be. She and fellow UofL student Clara Wilson are bringing their zeal for the electoral process to campus life and encouraging others to join in – especially this week in the midterm elections.
“Midterms are coming up, you guys. We’ve really got to get in here to vote,” Wilson told students passing near their table on the Quad during National Voter Registration Day Sept. 25. Students checked out an information sheet about who’s up for election in Kentucky, literature about signing up to vote and an iPad with the Secretary of State site, along with stickers reminding “Midterms Matter” and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Miss Elections.”
Wilson and Greenwell are UofL ambassadors for Vote Everywhere, a nationwide, nonpartisan effort by the Andrew Goodman Foundation to encourage citizens to get involved in the democratic process. Their endeavors are part of a coalition of partners and programs that helped gain UofL a “voter-friendly campus” designation from the Campus Vote Project and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
Greenwell, a May political science graduate from Springfield who now is a first-year law student, and Wilson, a junior political science major from Elizabethtown, attended the foundation’s National Civic Leadership Training Summit in July at Ramapo College of New Jersey. There they learned about voter registration, nonpartisanship, leadership and alliance-building.
The nonpartisan alliance at UofL includes groups such as Student Government Association, National Pan-Hellenic Council, Campus YMCA and the Engage Lead Serve Board.
“They’ve been working really hard to get the information out,” said Kathy Meyer, ELSB adviser and the Office of Student Involvement’s student leadership coordinator. “Through Vote Everywhere we’re able to surpass the reach of those partnerships.”
Recently they targeted absentee voters, reminding them to mail their ballots to their home counties; at a campus party to address the mailings, Canon chipped in to cover their postage.
The students are urging registered Jefferson County voters in affiliated housing and Old Louisville to get to their nearby polling places Tuesday and are participating in “Stroll to the Polls” walks with volunteers at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. from the Student Activities Center Ballroom. Student Government Association organized an election results TV watch party at Ekstrom Library’s Chao Auditorium from 7-10 p.m. after the polls close, according to Nicole Fielder, SGA governmental relations director.
“We’re trying to make any effort possible to (help students) vote any way they can,” Greenwell said. “It takes five minutes to register but it takes more commitment to go out and vote.”
So how do she and Wilson counter apathy?
“People tell me all the time their vote doesn’t matter,” Greenwell said. Her response: “Your vote is unique. People vote different ways for different reasons. No one else is going to vote the same way as me for the same reasons.”
As a student of political science and now law, Greenwell said she doesn’t regard politics negatively but rather as a mechanism for change.
“It’s all about the world you want to exist.”