The proposal to establish a voting location on campus for the November election has failed despite the collective efforts of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), the University administration, and WesVotes, a newly formed collaborative project that strives to make voting more accessible on campus.
In previous years, voting has taken place in Sbona Towers, the Middletown Senior Center located on Broad Street. While this location is not far from campus, the proposal to add a voting site to campus received significant support from the administration when discussions began last fall.
According to President Michael Roth, the idea was first presented by Chris Goy ’09, the co-founder of WesVotes. Goy worked closely with WSA President Mike Pernick ’10 on the proposal for an on-campus polling site.
“We made it very clear that it was a priority, and that we would love to have a polling place on campus,” Pernick said. “Our top concern was to make it easy for students to get to the voting booths.”
With the help of Andy Tanaka, Special Assistant to the President for University Relations, the University initiated a series of meetings with city officials to discuss the feasibility of on-campus voting booths.
“The Administration picked up the ball in advocating for us over the summer,” Goy said. “Despite good relations with the city, as well as the students’ offer to find the funds to pay for any increased costs, the city said ’no’.”
According to Goy, Middletown’s decision was based on several concerns. City officials pointed to the fact that the University and Sbona Towers are in the same precinct, and that having two locations within the area would be a logistical nightmare. Splitting the precinct into two smaller parts and creating a precinct solely for the University, however, would also have negative effects, giving the University’s smaller precinct less voting power.
Another option, and arguably the least realistic, was to change the location from Sbona Towers to the University. President Roth stated that he was unwilling to move the polling place altogether.
“Sbona Towers is convenient for the significant elderly population that votes there, and it is conveniently located across the street from Broad Street Books for our students,” Roth said in an e-mail to the Argus. “We will encourage our students to walk rather than asking the Sbona Towers residents to come to campus.”
Come Election Day, University students will still have to go to the Senior Center to vote. The City’s rationale, however, reflects legitimate issues that Goy recognizes.
“As upsetting as it might be at first, any rational person would see why [the plan] was nixed,” Goy said.
While this initiative failed, Goy still encouraged students to participate in the voting process. Pernick agreed, hoped that the lack of a polling site on campus would not hinder students from voting.
“I think this is the most important election in all of our lifetimes,” Pernick said. “Regardless of how you feel about this election, it’s a good time to get involved in the process. For most Wesleyan students, this is the first presidential election that they can vote in, and this is very exciting.”
President Roth also commented on the importance of involvement in this year’s election.
“Participation, engaging in the political process — not just commenting on it from the outside—is very important to me,” Roth said. “In this election year, I hope to see vigorous, informed political debate at Wesleyan. More importantly, I hope to see Wesleyan students finding ways to participate in the political process in relation to the issues and candidates they care about the most.”