KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Students and Kalamazoo city residents have new, expanded access to election services at Western Michigan University. A new satellite clerk's office is now open on the first floor of the Bernhard Center.
"Democracy is about hearing the voice of the people—all the people. That is why the city clerk's office is expanding the availability of voting services through multiple initiatives, including the opening of a branch office at WMU," says Scott Borling, Kalamazoo city clerk. "This pilot initiative will ensure that students who are city of Kalamazoo residents have convenient opportunities to register and to vote, obtain an absentee ballot and return their ballot."
The office, which is located in room 105 of the Bernhard Center, will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Election Day, with extended and adjusted hours on select days listed on the clerk's website.
"Conducting an election during a pandemic requires innovative approaches for public health-informed voter participation," says Jeff Breneman, vice president for government relations at WMU. "I applaud Kalamazoo city leadership for ensuring voting resources are accessible in the heart of our campus."
WeVote, a nonpartisan group spearheading a campuswide effort to institutionalize voting and increase civic engagement on campus, is encouraging students to vote early.
"I thought it was very well set up. In terms of COVID-19, I felt that the staff made sure there was minimal contact, clean and spread-out voting stations, all while still being able to answer questions and give directions," says Grace Boote, a junior majoring in criminal justice and arts administration, who voted at the Bernhard Center location Monday. "This is my first time voting in a presidential election. I'm very excited!"
Christopher Verhil, an arts administration student from Grand Ledge, voted absentee in this election in his home precinct. He hopes the new clerk's office on campus will motivate other students to cast their ballots as well.
"To actually do something that people fought for, you know, I felt like I was really doing my American duty (by voting)," he says. "There's really no excuse not to do it. It's very, very easy. Very user-friendly."
The satellite clerk's office is also a resource for questions about the voting process, including where to register and how to ensure a voter has followed all the necessary steps to make their vote count. WeVote is organizing a number of events to educate students about candidates and issues as well.
"It's important to stay informed because we are the next generation that's going to put these people in office and hopefully make a difference," Verhil says. "We are molding this nation for the future."
"How I vote doesn't just impact me. I want to vote to ensure that I feel safe in this world and equal; how am I helping those who need it most?" adds Boote. "These outcomes affect lives in so many circumstances. I want to know that I am a part of the changes that need to happen, and that's not something I'm going to take for granted. The ability to use my voice is huge. So for every student out there who is unsure or hesitant about voting: What you do makes a difference."
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.