Washington and Lee University students immersed themselves in the university’s 26th Annual Mock Convention and are now preparing for the Presidential Election. With Primaries happening across the country, many students are experiencing their first opportunity to vote.
As the Southern Regional Chair for the Mock Convention, Caroline Bones started researching political trends very early into her time at W&L. She was able to take this knowledge and her experience as the College Republican’s secretary with her to the polls.
As a resident of Virginia, she was able to vote for her candidate of choice, Marco Rubio, without having to go through some of the extra steps that out-of-state students may have to deal with if they choose to vote. However, she doesn’t think that would have dissuaded her from voting
“I definitely would have voted. But again I am a huge politics nerd, so that’s my thing. Its like my Super Bowl,” Bones said.
Each state has different requirements for absentee voting, which was problematic for some students. Tyler Wenger hoped to vote in the Primary Election but was unable to because of Tennessee’s regulations for first time voters.
“Since I haven’t already voted in the state, they wouldn’t give me an absentee ballot because they can’t ensure that I am who I say I am.” Wenger said.
Rather than driving the three hours to register to vote, Wenger registered in Virginia to ensure he could vote in the General Election. He is a registered Republican, but thinks that choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would be like “choosing between a rock and a hard place.”
The quality of candidates and their interests in the millennial demographic is of concern to some students. Julie Malone is a registered Republican in Idaho, but plans to support Hillary Clinton in the General Election.
“I am actually refusing to vote in the Primary. I was going to vote for Jeb and he is not in the running anymore,” Malone said. “So unless Mitt Romney comes back, I am abstaining from the Primary.”
She thinks that Clinton has a better platform for issues that matter most to her, specifically regarding women’s equality. Malone even considered changing her registration to Virginia because it is a “purple” state and she thought her vote would matter more.
Registering to vote was also an issue for some students, as this was the first election that most students could vote in.
Alex Dolwick was not able to vote because he didn’t register in time.
“I have the sheets in my dorm to register but I didn’t fill it out within thirty days of the North Carolina Primary. Mostly because it was an online process that somewhat confused me,” Dolwick said.
Dolwick plans to fill the forms out soon with time to vote in the General Election. He plans to register as a Democrat and research the candidates further before November. At Mock Convention, a speaker who talked on the impact of the millennial vote inspired Dolwick on this generation’s responsibility to get involved.
In addition to just voting, students have found other ways to get involved with the political process. In addition, Mock Convention students have gotten involved on social media and with political groups on campus.
The University has College Republicans, College Democrats and College Libertarians. The groups work with local and national campaigns in different capacities.
“For the Election, we have organized weekly discussion groups to help members formulate and refine their views on major issues in the election including gun control, women’s rights and sexual assaults on college campuses,” College Democrats’ Secretary Morgan Maloney said
In addition to working on the Clinton campaign, Maloney has helped with several events on campus including voter registration drives and debate viewing parties.
While voting absentee can be difficult, many students recognize that this election will have big implications for this generation of voters and are taking the steps to make their voices heard.