Collaboration Increases Voting Access at University of Central Arkansas
Due to concerns of public accessibility, lack of reliable and trained poll workers, and the difficulty of securing voting machines on campus, the Faulkner County Election Commission voted at the beginning of the year to remove the UCA polling site, along with three other sites in rural areas of the county.
Following the decision, University President Houston Davis and other campus administrators, the Student Government Association, the Vote Everywhere team and a coalition of politically engaged student organizations all leaped into action. President Davis scheduled meetings between local elected officials and university supporters to understand the Election Commission’s reasons for removing the polling site. As students expressed interest and commitment to reinstating the polling site, he knew there was a strong case to move forward. UCA Vote Everywhere Ambassador Karlie Galarza, says, “He’s a president very much in tune with student wants and needs. Without us coming together to show him our commitment, he might not have understood how much it meant to us. We are incredibly grateful our administration fought with us.”
The UCA Vote Everywhere team ensured there was space for other student voices to be amplified throughout the process and convened a coalition of student organizations, faculty, and administrators a few days after learning of the election commission’s decision. As campus administration worked with local elected officials, this group developed contingency plans and shared ideas for educating on-campus voters about the voting process and requirements prior to the midterm election. For example, the Student Government Association drafted a resolution and gathered letters of support from student-led groups to present to the Election Commission. According to Program Manager Taryn Dwyer, “The team took the initiative in facilitating collaboration across campus, among students and faculty alike. Now, because of their leadership, members of the UCA community know that Vote Everywhere is a valuable resource on campus.”
Of the recent achievement, Lesley Graybeal, Vote Everywhere Campus Champion, states, “The way this panned out was a reminder of the importance of both grassroots organizing and a supportive administration in making sustainable progress in civic engagement in higher education.”
The UCA story demonstrates how the Vote Everywhere model bridges the gap between grassroots civic engagement and the administration of higher education institutions. By working together, campuses can create change for young people.
About the Author
Kevin Hurtado is the Communications and Development Associate at Andrew Goodman Foundation. He graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a Bachelor’s in International Studies and a minor in Human Rights and Genocide. Previously, Kevin worked as an Executive Assistant and Office Manager at Newark Charter School Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting educational equity in the city of Newark.