SPARTANBURG, S.C. — This year Sadie Fink voted in her first presidential election.
“I have voted in primary and midterm elections, but last month I was able to vote in my first general election, and thus for the first time I participated in the democratic process to elect my President,” says Fink, a senior international affairs major from Huger, South Carolina. She voted early, by mail, and still felt the excitement of the moment.
The election has been a hot topic on Wofford’s campus with watch parties for the presidential, vice-presidential and Senate debates. Students have joined election message groups and have been active on social media.
“Some of these constant political discussions have created tension,” she says. “I think the campus’ palpable excitement about the election is due in part to students recognizing the power of their vote.”
According to the Pew Research Center, a tenth of eligible voters (one in 10) will be between the ages 18 and 23. That’s up 6% from the 2016 election.
Fink also has been a part of the college’s WoffordVotes initiative. She and Allen Lollis, assistant director of residence life and a 2015 Wofford graduate, updated a website, led voter registration efforts on campus and implemented the Wofford Votes social media competition. Winning campus organizations were: Wofford Asian-American and Pacific islanders club (first place), Old Gold and Black student newspaper (second) and Campus Union student government (third).
“Polling data indicates that nearly 60% of Gen Z voters aren’t certain they’ll vote,” says Lollis. That’s why programs such as Wofford Votes on college campuses is important as a way to encourage civic engagement and good citizenship.
“This year marks the 100-year anniversary of (white) women gaining the right to vote, and to me there was no better way to honor the sacrifices of all of the women who fought for suffrage than by ensuring every eligible voter is able to exercise their constitutional right,” says Fink. She also joined the Upstate Action Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout among traditionally underrepresented groups. “Aryk Hennings, Bryson Coleman, Naya Taylor and Hector Ortiz all volunteered to canvas with me to register Spartanburg voters and share information on voting.”
For Ortiz, a junior biology, philosophy and Spanish major with a concentration in medicine and the liberal arts from Saluda, South Carolina, canvasing was a grounding experience. “Often we hear ‘almost half of the country did not vote’ or ‘there is a huge number of individuals out there not voting who are eligible to vote,’ but we really do not consider what those amounts really mean,” he says. “Going from door to door encouraging people to vote really gave us more perspective into this. We did run into a couple of folks who did not want to register, but overall we found a good number already registered and ready to vote."