Pride to the Polls

by Luke Butner

On October 25, GC students and faculty marched to the courthouse for an early voting session called Pride to the Polls. This event was intended to raise awareness for students to exercise their right to vote in this year’s election.

Pride to the Polls was organized by the GC Votes Coalition. The Collegian spoke to Mr. Warche Downing, senior student retention and engagement officer and GC Votes Coalition member. He was the main representative of the GC Votes Coalition for this event.

“The reason we [the GC Votes Coalition] organized this event [Pride to the Polls] was because we saw the power of collaboration with an event like this,” Downing said.

He also added that the reason he wanted this event to take place was because Dr. Brewer, with Village 401, inspired him to get students civilly engaged.

Downing said the main goal of Pride to the Polls was to get our campus to “understand civic learning and voter participation is not solely something learned or seen only on TV, but it is something that stands beyond the classroom by exercising one’s right to vote and making an effort to be informed about those who are running for office and issues on the ballot.”

He also mentioned that he wants to “plant a seed” so that students continue having our voice heard after college. “Those who came just to walk with us still benefited because they saw just how easy it is to vote.”

The GC Votes Coalition received a “special grant to promote civic and political engagement, specifically for the 2022 midterms,” Downing said. The grant, offered by North Carolina Community Engagement (NCCE) to 9 different schools in North Carolina, gave the program $500 to support election engagement for the 2022 midterms.

“The hardest part of organizing [Pride to the Polls] was trying to get student participation and making sure students … saw [voting] as something necessary and important to partake in,” according to Downing.

Pride to the Polls had about 20 students show up, all eager to learn more about voting. Downing stated that the event was a smashing success because GC Votes had students and faculty from every department and background come together for the common cause of voting. He described this event as “a united front [to bring] people together for a common cause.”

The main message that Downing wanted students to leave with after Pride to the Polls was “We effect change by doing and not just by sitting on the sidelines. [Voting] is not something we see just on TV, or on social media, or the newspaper, but something that you participate in. You have a voice and a choice [on the ballot].”

“[Pride to the Polls] was enjoyable overall as people came together … in hopes of improving the general state of affairs,” said Calen Lewis, a sophomore accounting major. “I enjoyed coming together with others to share thoughts and encourage each other to vote. The experience was valuable … [and] I think it would be a pleasant tradition to establish.”

The GC Votes Coalition plans to host Pride to the Polls biannually during midterms and presidential elections.


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