Rebekah Davis

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — For a second year in a row, Winthrop University has been designated a “Voter Friendly Campus” by two organizations that track college involvement in elections.

The Campus Vote Project and Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) awarded Winthrop the designation for its efforts to raise awareness about voting and get students engaged in the 2018 midterm elections.

Winthrop and the University of South Carolina were the only two schools in the state to receive the recognition, among the 123 educational institutions across the country named voter friendly campuses.

Winthrop has been active in the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement project since 2012, in order to look closely at its rates of student voting and registration and find ways to get students involved in elections.

Bethany Marlowe, dean of students, said the university created a group dedicated to educating students about voting options ahead of the midterms.

“We did tabling, we put out fliers, we put out little note cards that said ‘check your voter registration,’ we sent out emails, we communicated with students during orientation; so we really hit a lot of different areas in order to try to reach students,” said Marlowe.

Winthrop hosted more than 30 election-focused events that drew more than 2,000 students and covered topics such as absentee ballots, finding a voting site and locating information about candidates.

“Our national elections, our state elections and our local elections influence people’s lives in ways that are so impactful. That’s how we determine how our lives go. We have tried to communicate to students that being engaged in our civil and civic discourse is really critical,” said Marlowe.

Many Winthrop students said they already recognize the importance of voting.

“The policies that are made on the state and federal level affects students, especially those attending public schools, whether it be tuition, budget cuts or curriculum,” said Mikayla Mangle, a senior political science and environmental studies major.

“Students know what is best for themselves and their education, so they should vote so they have a say in what happens for their futures.”

According to a press release, 58 percent of Winthrop students voted in the 2016 presidential election, which earned the school the Voter Friendly Campus designation in 2017.

Roughly one in five students, or 19.9 percent, voted in the last midterm elections in 2014. However, participation is typically lower during midterm years, so Winthrop set a goal of 25 percent student voter turnout for 2018.

While the turnout numbers aren’t yet available, Winthrop officials are hopeful the university met its goal, because of the historic number of people who voted nationally last year.