SPARTANBURG, S.C. – This fall the Southern Conference became the first NCAA Division I athletics conference to initiate a voter-engagement competition among its member colleges and universities. Wofford Votes, a part of the SoCon Votes Challenge, engaged Terriers in the democratic process with a voter registration drive, absentee ballot assistance and debate-watch events. The competition sought to build citizenship and stewardship of our communities and nation. In 2014, 9 percent of Wofford students voted in midterm elections, although about 65 percent were registered at the time. “These are troubling numbers that are similar to those of other institutions around the country,” says Allen Lollis, a resident director at Wofford, who spearheaded the SoCon Votes Challenge at Wofford. “Voting is too important of a right to take nonchalantly. We’ve got to do something to encourage and empower our students to engage in the political process.”The initiative is “not just about the competition,” says Lollis. “This program represents a serious effort to live up to the goals and purpose of the college.”Lollis says that a strong network of support among various departments at the college made Wofford Votes successful. The Department of Athletics hosted events and a voter registration drive. The Office of Marketing and Communications created a logo and provided on-campus marketing. Also involved in the initiative were the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Residence Life and Student Activities.SoCon Votes aims to capitalize on existing rivalries among the 10 member colleges and universities to transform student-voting engagement into a contest, which will be tracked by a national voting organization. ‘This can be an effective method of taking the competitive nature all students have for their institutions and converting it into action that benefits the democratic process,” says John Iamarino, commissioner of the Southern Conference. “We’re proud that the SoCon can play a role in encouraging student voter turnout.”by Sarah Madden, Wofford Class of 2017