Brina Bentley of Richmond, VA and David Chavarria of Asheboro, NC are working hard at Pfeiffer University with the goal of earning bachelor’s degrees next spring. But on a late afternoon last month, they took a break from their studies to participate in the “Get out the Vote Drive,” which was held for Pfeiffer students in advance of the November 3rd elections.
The drive, which took place September 9th in the parking lot of the Misenheimer Post Office, is believed to be the first such effort at Pfeiffer in several years. It aimed to help students register to vote and/or complete an absentee ballot request form.
Dr. Ashley Schoppe, an assistant professor of English, organized and participated in the drive, along with Dr. Edward Royston, an assistant professor of English; Dr. Elizabeth Harrison, an associate professor of music; and Dr. Kevin Taylor, an associate professor of religion.
Schoppe said that she wanted “Get out the Vote” to address some gaps in the civics education of Pfeiffer’s students. These emerged during the midterms in 2018, when she talked to students in her classes about the importance of voting.
“It’s not that students didn’t understand the importance of voting,” she said. “It was just that a great many of them lacked the knowledge about how to navigate voter registration, absentee ballots, etc. I think our students are hungry for this information, and they respond positively when we provide opportunities for voter education.”
Bentley, 21, who’s majoring in health and exercise science, would agree.
“It’s good that they did this,” she said. “Otherwise, there would have been a lot of students who didn’t vote in this election.”
Chavarria, 22, is majoring in business management and leadership and in accounting. He said he liked the idea of the drive so much that he took a couple of friends to it.
“They were not that knowledgeable about the voting process,” he said. “They are now.”
During the drive, the professors each wore a mask with the word “Vote” on it, as they assisted dozens of students with a range of issues. For example, some would-be voters from North Carolina needed to verify that they were registered. The professors could look that up on the spot, using this website: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/
Students asked the professors to make sure they had filled out their forms correctly.
“That was really helpful,” said Chavarria, who recently received an absentee ballot in the mail, filled it out and mailed it back.
Students from North Carolina who weren’t registered prepared both a registration application and an absentee ballot request form and mailed them both in together. Harrison’s research clarified registration and absentee ballot policies in states outside of North Carolina.
The process was made even easier by the fact that forms from North Carolina and nearby states had been printed out in advance and could be mailed using donated envelopes and stamps. Harrison and Taylor researched and printed out the forms. Royston donated the envelopes.
Schoppe donated the stamps; Dr. Danielle Donelson, an assistant professor of English at Pfeiffer, and Dr. Marissa Schwalm, a former assistant professor of English at Pfeiffer, helped Schoppe defray the cost of purchasing them.
Drive organizers even left unused envelopes and stamps in the care of Joanna Foley, an administrative assistant in the Office of Student Development, so that students would have stamps to mail in their absentee ballots. Faculty donated stamps for this purpose as well.
Schoppe expressed satisfaction with the drive’s outcomes.
“The turnout was so great,” she said. “We had so many students show up that we almost ran out of forms. Also, I’m so grateful to the faculty and staff who helped make ‘Get out the Vote’ a success for our students.”
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.