Students studying outside the library

Wofford College encourages voter registration, participation

September 30, 2004

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Interest is growing among Wofford College students in the upcoming elections, evidenced by increases in voter registration and absentee voting, and a “presidential” debate planned by the Wofford Debate Society.

Wofford’s Public Policy Committee, a non-partisan organization composed of students, faculty and staff, has conducted a voter registration drive this fall with the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. “We’ve already received more than 220 requests for information regarding registration and absentee voting so far this fall,” says Josh Whitley, co-chairman of the Public Policy Committee and president of the Campus Union student government association. “Students have several opportunities to receive information and registration forms from the Public Policy Committee, so they can become registered voters in their home states. We also assist them in getting absentee voting information. We urge all students to participate in the process.”

The Public Policy Committee’s mission is to encourage participation in politics and government as part of the college’s civic education initiative, which also includes sponsoring visits by civic-oriented speakers and candidates. “The vast majority of students on campus are active, and take their civic duty of voting seriously,” Whitley says, “so we have a high registration percentage. Most of the requests for voter registration and absentee voting information have come from members of the freshman class, who recently celebrated their 18th birthdays.”

In previous years, the committee has hosted candidate visits as well as candidate debates and issues forums.

This year, Wofford College’s Debate Society will sponsor a “Bush vs. Kerry Presidential Policy Debate,” featuring Wofford students debating the two candidates’ positions on important issues. The debate will be held on Thursday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. in Leonard Auditorium in Main Building. It is free and open to the public.

“Our right to elect our government is a tremendous privilege, but it is also a tremendous responsibility,” says Marion Smith, who is organizing the Debate Society and the presidential debate. “It is in the realm of discussion, in several venues, that people are made aware of the issues on which they vote.

“Alexander Hamilton wrote in his Federalist letters that because there is no ultimate political authority to dictate policy in a democratic republic, the surest way for people to decide what was right and wrong for America is on the basis of argument,” Smith adds. “It is in this spirit that the Debate Society is hosting the Bush vs. Kerry Presidential Policy Debate – to create a venue for public discussion of matters important to the future of America.”