For the first time on WVU’s campus, in a collaborative effort between WVU and the state of West Virginia, live polling stations will be available on the downtown campus.

The live polling stations are part of a project to encourage civic engagement among students. 

“We have been asked for a few years now how we can enhance voting on campus,” said Kristi Wood-Turner, director of the Center for Service and Learning. “It has been a big initiative by Jay Cole, who is the special advisor to [WVU President E. Gordon Gee].”

Wood-Turner said the live polling is planned to be held in the Shenandoah Room of the Mountainlair starting in late October, with official dates to be released over the next few weeks.

She said while the live polling station will only be for those registered to vote in West Virginia, all students have the choice to register to vote in West Virginia rather than their home state, depending on where they want their voice to have the most impact.

While introducing live polling to WVU students will create convenience, one of the most important aspects of making the project a success comes from first getting students to register to vote.

The need to encourage students to register was something Hunter Hardway, a freshman chemical engineering student, said he immediately took notice of when he first came to campus. He is now working on a voter registration drive at WVU through the Center for Service and Learning.

“When I got to college I heard about the Center for Service and Learning and about their social action projects, and it really spoke to me,” Hardway said. “I realized I could bring this here, realizing there wasn’t a big voter-registration push.”

Hardway said one of his main goals is marketing and spreading the word on how to get registered to vote, which he said is a simple process that can be done by visiting the individual’s state voter registration site.

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Hunter Hardway.

“Our main goals right now are to get people aware,” Hardway said. “We believe a lot of the reason people don’t vote is because they are not aware of how easy it is. Bringing this to the forefront of their mind rather than something that sits in the back, I think, will allow a lot more voices to be heard.”

While the project has been a group effort between the University and the state, Eric Murphy, assistant director of the Center for Service and Learning, said something that makes the project so powerful is the role Hardway has played in bringing it to WVU.

While the project has been a group effort between the University and the state, Eric Murphy, assistant director of the Center for Service and Learning, said something that makes the project so powerful is the role Hardway has played in bringing it to WVU.

“The thing that I think that is the most amazing is the fact that we know this has been inspired and led by a student,” Murphy said. “The greatest thing is this is a collaborative effort for the University and the state.”

Along with taking a look at today’s impact participating in voting has, the University has activities planned to educate students on the historical impact of it. In recognition of the 100th year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, a five-day educational event held during Mountaineer Week will focus on the role West Virginia played in Women’s Suffrage.

Murphy said this event is a collaborative effort among several organizations, including the president’s office, Arts and Entertainment, Student Life Engagement, Transportation and Parking, the Monongalia County Clerk’s Office, University Police, West Virginia Women’s Resource Center and West Virginia Council for Women’s Concerns.

WVU Libraries will also be hosting an art exhibit related to the 19th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“We are taking all of our experts on campus and letting them add their piece to it,” Wood-Turner said. “In the next two or three months we are really going to highlight being involved in your community civically.”

Although several organizations have and will continue to play a key role in the push for civic engagement on-campus, Murphy said it is in the hands of the students to utilize the resources and tools the project will provide them.

“We get to be the catalyst of change,” Murphy said. “If you just shed light on a piece of the grass and that piece gets healthy, that’s not healthy for the lawn. We have to make sure that we support the lawn, everyone’s getting that light and supporting the students being in the forefront.”