By Nikolai Wise ‘21
The fourth Tuesday of September is a day of activity on UNC Asheville’s campus. You’re likely to run into tables on seemingly every corner with energetic young people calling out to ask you if you would like to register to vote. This day is National Voter Registration Day and is one of the biggest days for civic engagement for many political science students, student leaders, and civically-minded students on campus. But why do they do it?
The registration drive registers large numbers of students every year, helping UNC Asheville reach impressively higher registration rates—higher even than the national average. According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement at Tuft’s University, 75% of UNC Asheville’s student body was registered to vote. Furthermore, voter turnout of UNC Asheville was 4.1% higher than the national average at 43.2% in the 2018 midterm election. In the fall 2019 Voter Registration Drive alone, 400 students registered to vote and 320 pledged to vote.
“We have a remarkable student body, I’ve never been to a campus where I find students that are more politically active or politically aware,” said Ashley Moraguez, advisor to the Political Science Club and professor of political science. “I think we have the kinds of students that have this political and civic engagement that is really important.”
“It really seems that over the past few years this is becoming an activity on campus,” Moraguez said. “There’s excitement about it, our students from disciplines all over the university are really involved and really care.”
Removing Barriers to Voting
Registration is required to vote on Election Day, and being registered at your correct address is incredibly important for college students, as your residence hall address determines of your district and representatives.
“If you move into a different dorm or potentially even to a different room in the same building, you might be in a different congressional district,” said Moraguez.
“We want to give a clean and easy way around campus, so they don’t have to go searching for both voter registration forms and turning them in,” said Chase Loudermelt, president of the Political Science Club.
“They don’t have to fill out the form alone, because it’s a very convoluted form and we want to make the process as easy as possible. The important thing about doing it every year is because we always have a big incoming freshman class that are changing addresses. In the state of North Carolina, you have to update your registration every time you move. So, if a freshman comes in and wants to start voting in Asheville, they have to re-register,” Loudermelt said. “Three-fourths of our campus community registered to vote is amazing and I really think that is due to Dr. Moraguez and the stuff she is doing with the Political Science Club.”
A Club with a Cause
The Political Science Club, a nonpartisan student organization at UNC Asheville that promotes civic engagement, serves as an important conduit for civic engagement and the application of political science coursework.
“A lot of what we focus on is voter rights, voter registration and all things voting,” Loudermelt said. “We do not endorse a certain party, we just want people to vote for somebody. We really just try to get college students and students of UNC Asheville to be civically engaged.”
The organization also serves a promotional role for political science careers and higher education by creating opportunities for student leaders to grow in their professional skills. A good example is Loudermelt who is currently serving as a democracy intern with the Campus Vote Project.
“It was the Political Science Club and really Dr. Moraguez that got me into my passion of voting and voter rights and registering people to vote,” said Loudermelt. “I always feel very good knowing there’s a faculty advisor behind me, both my position and my name. She’s very reliable and I think that she does the most out of any faculty club advisor on this campus, just because she goes out and gets things done.”
The organization was re-founded in Moraguez’s first year of teaching at UNC Asheville.
“I was trying to find a way to meet more students, because it was my first semester and so people didn’t know who I was, and I wanted to get involved on campus,” Moraguez said. “I had a group in an upper-level elective that seemed to really be interested in civic engagement every time it came up in class. So there seemed to be a need for this kind of thing on campus, our students really wanted political engagement opportunities and it seemed like a student organization was a good way to do that.”
If you would like to learn more about registering to vote or want to become involved with the Political Science Club, email firstname.lastname@example.org.