Lack of on-campus early voting site will reduce student turnout

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Lauren Merrill

With the upcoming March 15 primary election, a decision to remove the Plemmons Student Union voting site will cause a lag in student voters.

On Jan. 19, by a margin of 2 to 1 votes, the Watauga County Board of Elections put in place a plan proposed by Republican chairman Bill Aceto to remove the early voting site on Appalachian State’s campus.

With the majority vote on Aceto’s side, there will now be locations at the Watauga County Administration Building, Blowing Rock Town Hall, the Western Watauga Community Center and the fire departments in Deep Gap and Meat Camp.

It is not necessary to have two voting sites within one mile of each other, Aceto said.

“The Watagua County administration building site is more than adequate to handle the needs of our urban polling location,” he said.

But in 2012, 35 percent of all early voters in Watauga County cast their votes at the student union and it has been the majority voting spot for ages 18 to 25, according to wral.com. That is the typical age range for college students, so it doesn’t make sense to take their main voting site away from them.

In 2013, the board of elections combined three precincts into one at the Agricultural Center intended to serve more than 9,300 registered voters, according to the Winston Salem Journal. During this time, the student union served 3,660 voters.

In comparison, the county government building voting site had 1,889 voters and the Agricultural Conference Center had 3,791. The student union makes up one of the largest portions of the voters in Watauga County.

Given all this information, Aceto is very wrong.

Since the majority voting location for college-aged adults is at the student union and a large majority of the voters have gone to the student union in the past, having a voting site at the university is crucial to early voting if the polls want to see a large turnout of voters.

Though the voting site at the Watauga County Administration building is not that far, it is not an ideal location for busy college students.

For students, it is easy to get to the student union when you are already on campus. It is time consuming and wasteful to have to go out of the way for a voting site that should already be at the university.

Parking can also be an issue for those students who live off of campus and would have to drive to a voting site. Parking spots are not always readily available on King Street and during certain hours payment is required.

Appalachian’s campus is also easily accessible for everyone. Thirty-four percent of students live on campus, according to U.S. News and World Report, and those that don’t are on campus at some point in their day anyway, making voting at the student union easy.

With a significant portion of Watauga County consisting of voting-aged students, having a site easily available to them just makes sense, one that would be easy to get to and wouldn’t take us out of our way in our already busy lives.

Polls will see a drop in voters because of this decision. In order to get more students to vote, a voting site at Plemmons Student Union is necessary.

Merrill, a sophomore journalism major from Chapel Hill, is an opinion writer.