Téa Franco

(Rock Hill S.C.) — In recent years, Winthrop University has received national recognition from the Campus Vote Project and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators as a “Voter Friendly Campus.”

As South Carolina’s “First in the South” presidential primary approaches, the university plans to continue its campus-wide effort to maintain this designation during the 2020 election cycle.

Jennifer Disney, chair of the political science department, said she is leading a group of students to become voting ambassadors, who will serve as volunteers that will help students create a voting plan in order to increase voter turnout.

“For several election cycles we’ve been focused on political and civic engagement and we’ve gotten accolades nationwide for the work that we’ve done,” said Disney. “We just want to continue that effort to make sure Winthrop University continues to be a national role model for how to get students active in political and civic engagement.”

Last year, Karen Kedrowski, who led many of Winthrop’s get-out-the-vote efforts, left her position as director of the Center for Civic Learning for a job at Iowa State University.

According to Disney, the remaining Winthrop faculty have been working to figure out how to carry out the school’s usual efforts to encourage students to vote.

For example, Katarina Moyon, director of the John C. West Forum who worked closely with Kedrowski during the 2016 and 2018 elections, is now leading efforts to get students involved in 2020.

Moyon and Disney are both member’s of Winthrop’s Civic Learning Committee, which includes several other faculty members from various departments across campus, including visual and performing arts, social work and residence life.

According to Moyon, the committee has developed a three pillar plan that includes branding election-related events as “Decision 2020,” working with the art department to create informative get-out-the-vote posters and fliers, and working with the voting ambassadors to get students registered.

Each midterm election, Tufts University conducts research to examine the voting rates among college students across the country and Moyon said the study has shown that Winthrop typically ranks higher than the national average.

The reports showed that 20 percent of the Winthrop student body voted in 2014 and that number doubled in 2018, as 40 percent of students voted.

“In 2018 our turnout doubled, which is pretty impressive. South Carolina actually has a pretty high voter turnout rate and our school is mirroring those numbers too, which is great,” Moyon said.

Ann Carrol, a voting ambassador, said the work of the Civic Learning Committee is important, because it will encourage more students to vote.

“It is important for students to vote, because our age demographic is finally larger than the baby boomer generations,” said Carrol.

“Therefore we have just as much influence — and more than they do — if we all could just vote. We deserve to have our voices heard and I want to help others see what impact our voices can make if they just vote.”