Nonpartisan group encourages WMU students to vote

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Young voters may play an important role in the 2020 election, especially if they experience a high voter turnout.

The nonpartisan group We Vote at Western Michigan University is working to encourage students to register and exercise their right to vote.

This is the first election with a city of Kalamazoo satellite clerk’s office operating on campus in the Bernhard Center.

Emily Duguay, co-chair of We Vote, says this allows students who are residents of the city to register on site. The group used to provide transportation to the downtown clerk’s office where students could take care of the registration process.

“We saw an increase in 2018 of participation among this demographic and I think we’ll see an increase and I think we’re already seeing an increase,” Duguay said.

She says there is a level of enthusiasm this year well above what she has seen in the past.

Kalamazoo residents voting at a satellite clerk’s office on Western Michigan University’s campus ahead of Election Day on Nov. 2, 2020.

“I think this cycle of young voters is a far more engaged voter (demographic) than in prior elections,” Deguay said.

We Vote also has had to change how it operates during the pandemic, which has presented new challenges.

“We haven’t been able to be physically on campus doing tabling events — We actually haven’t done any at all, so we’ve really been working on our digital outreach,” Deguay said.

WMU student Antwinae Mcneil says she sees a lot of excitement among young voters, a group that historically has voted at a lower rate than many of their older peers.

“I definitely encourage a lot of my friends and things like that and I think especially for me in the Black community, it’s very important for us to vote this time around with everything that’s going on,” Mcneil said.

She says more young people are engaged in this year’s election and would encourage others to not take their voting rights for granted.

“You have to believe that your vote counts, that it matters,” Mcneil said.

The satellite clerk’s office in the Bernhard Center can be used by any resident of the city of Kalamazoo. The office will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Students who live in neighboring townships would have to go to that township clerk’s office to register on the day of the election.