One Stop Shop: Elon University’s Inaugural On-Campus One Stop Early Voting Site
Despite ongoing attacks on voting rights across the country, we know that having both more space and more time makes it easier to vote. This is particularly true for student voters, who often have commitments to classes, athletic games, or jobs on Election Day, and who are less likely to have access to transportation to reach their designated polling sites.
This is why 45 states and Washington, D.C. have some sort of early in-person voting period before Election Day, and it’s becoming increasingly common to see one-stop “Voting Centers” popping up in these states.
The Andrew Goodman Campus Team at Elon University has always worked hard to provide shuttles to and from local off-campus polling sites on Election Day, but they experienced a breakthrough in expanded voter access in the 2022 Midterm Elections: their first ever on-campus early voting site. Eligible voters in Alamance County had the opportunity to go to Elon’s South Gym any day between October 20th and November 5th to register to vote if they had missed the deadline and cast their ballots early.
“We worked in collaboration with the Alamance County Board of Elections to host an inaugural One Stop Early Voting Site at our institution which was utilized by 4,605 voters,” says Andrew Goodman Campus Champion and Assistant Dean and Director of Elon’s Kernodle Center for Civic Life, Bob Frigo. “Those voters included many of our Elon students, faculty, and staff.”
Unfortunately, for many campuses across the country, a one-stop early voting site like this feels like a distant dream. So what makes a win like this possible, and why did it work for Elon?
For starters, the offerings at a one-stop site like this are subject to state law. These sites won’t be designated in the five states that don’t have laws allowing early voting periods. Similarly, even in states that do allow in-person early voting, if the statewide voter registration deadline occurs before early voting begins, a site like this couldn’t offer both same-day voter registration and in-person voting. The intricacies of these state deadlines and the little overlap (if any) between voter registration and early voting periods are in part what makes it difficult to pull off a one-stop early voting site like this.
In North Carolina, the early voting period usually begins no more than 19 days before Election Day and concludes two days before Election Day. Their statewide voter registration deadline is typically 20-27 days before Election Day, with the key exception of offering same-day voter registration during the early voting period prior to Election Day. This creates a window of overlap in which a one-stop site can offer voters the chance to register to vote and cast their ballots in person in one sitting.
As is often the case, there’s another caveat: Each county gets to decide 1) if they want to set up one-stop early voting sites and 2) where to designate such sites, if they do. Elon University sits in Alamance County, whose Board of Elections allocated five one-stop early voting sites. Andrew Goodman Campus Champion Bob Frigo began building a relationship with the Alamance County Board of Elections staff several years ago by simply asking: how can Elon University be a better partner in helping register student voters? Over the next several elections, they built great trust and supported each other in countless ways, so much so that when the Board of Elections was looking for a new One Stop Early Voting Site in the 2022 Midterm Elections, they reached out to Elon.
Once the one-stop site was solidified, Andrew Goodman Ambassadors got to work to make sure it was a success. They promoted the site heavily on their social media accounts and across campus communication channels, chalked outside the site for visibility, and even went into academic buildings to write reminders on white boards in departments that historically have lower voter turnout. With 4,605 voters using the site, it’s clear that their hard work paid off.
The data from Elon’s One Stop Early Voting Site is a testament to the fact that on-campus polling sites and expanded voting windows are not only beneficial for student voters, but to all voters. Institutions of higher education have many benefits as potential polling sites: ADA accessible buildings, ample parking, clear signage, and administrative support. Early voting periods and same-day voter registration allow voters to account for the many reasons why they may not be able to cast their ballots on Election Day. When all of this comes together, it looks like Elon’s One Stop Early Voting Site.
About the Author
Caroline Smith is the Director of Programs at The Andrew Goodman Foundation. Caroline works with young organizers across the country to institutionalize civic and voter engagement.