Students blame Duke early voting site for lower turnout
Posted November 4, 2016
Durham, N.C. — The number of Duke University students voting is down from the last two presidential elections, and some on campus are blaming the early voting location for the dropoff.
The early voting site was put on Duke's Central Campus this year, which isn't an area many students walk by on an average day.
"This is very far removed from the main area of campus," said sophomore Jacob Glasser, president of YOUnite, a nonpartisan political group on campus. "If you want to vote, you should be able to vote, but students who really don't care that much aren't willing to take the time and go out of their way and find this location."
Durham County Board of Elections officials consulted with Duke administrators before deciding on the location of the early voting site, and now Glasser is working with administrators to make getting to the site as easy as possible by offering free buses, $5 Uber credits and free car rides from professors and community members.
"I was at the bus stop on my way to class, and people approached me and said, 'Have you voted yet?' and I said, 'No, I have to go to class,'" freshman Linden Eveling said. "They actually had a van right there, and they were like, 'We'll drive you there and drive you to class afterwards.'"
"I was waiting until I have my friend’s car. I knew I would at the end of the week, so I just drove here," sophomore Lauren DaSilva said. "It’s kind of hard with the buses and stuff, especially because I wasn’t sure exactly when the buses would come back."
Glasser said all that effort may not be enough, however, given the lower turnout. About 2,100 student votes had been cast at the Duke early voting site by the end of Thursday, compared with 2,700 during the same period in 2012.
That voting site is open to the general public, and overall voter turnout numbers there have been good.
Gunther Peck, and associate professor of history and public policy at Duke, said the location isn't ideal, but he doesn't think voting location is to blame for lower student turnout. Instead, he cites a lack of excitement about either presidential candidate.
"I think there is a different vibe among the student voters, and it's a fear factor versus a hope election," Peck said. "This is a test case – which is more powerful, fear or hope?"
North Carolina State University officials also are offering shuttles to get students to an early voting site in the Business Services building on campus. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill doesn't have an on-campus voting site, although one is nearby.