Student voters take to the polls

Early voting is open as Jackson County prepares for the North Carolina primary election. Five polling places have been established across the county. Locations include the Cashiers Recreation Center, Cullowhee Recreation Center, the Qualla Community Center in Whittier and the Jackson County Board of Elections office in Sylva. 

To provide students with easy access to vote, the University Center opened a voting center Feb. 15 and has already seen many students, faculty and staff cast their votes.  

Students have a lot on their mind when casting their vote, namely human rights, education, immigration and the economy. 

 “I care about the welfare of the nation,” WCU senior Damon Mull said. “I want to see the economy get better and see the border crisis be resolved peacefully.” 

 Southwestern Community College senior Tuck Brown hopes that young voters are standing up for what they believe. 

 “Generation Z is the largest LGBTQ+ and racial minority identifying generation in history. It is important
that we stand up for our rights to exist in our identities,” Brown said. “Voting is making your voice heard in a way that can bring real change to you and your community.” 

 Morgan Fox, a WCU transfer student from A-B Tech, says voting may feel insignificant but is important, nonetheless. “It’s fun! It can encourage familiarity with your representatives,” she said. 

“I’m worried about South Carolinians and Floridians coming into the state and raising the cost of living. There’s been a lot of interstate immigration,” Fox continued. “As for the Mexican border, that’s a very long way from here so it’s not really my concern.” 

 A passion for politics can be felt all over campus. It doesn’t take a sharp eye to notice hundreds of campaign flyers dotting roads and walkways. Noah Derrenberger, president of WCU College Democrats, encourages student involvement in politics right here in Cullowhee. 

 “Although voting in state and national elections matter a great deal, rural local elections matter just as much,” Derrenberger said. “Local elections are important for your life, your friend’s life, and the lives of the residents. While national elections focus on the entire country, local elections focus on your community.” 

 Many students don’t vote, seeing little reason their single ballot will make a difference. In 2022, Jackson County only reached 50% voter participation. In North Carolina, 24% of those 18 to 24 voted, compared to 34% in those 26 to 40 and 59% of those 41 to 65. Brown hopes that young voters will see the importance of casting a ballot. 

 “If you want to see real change in your community then research the candidates and the offices that they’re running for. Find the candidate that most aligns with your values and beliefs then go vote for them. If you have an issue that you feel deeply enough about, most candidates have a way to contact them. Call them, email them, DM them, whatever you’re comfortable with and ask the candidate personally.” 

 Derrenberger hopes that young voters realize the significance that their decisions can make. 

 “Gen Zs can rebuild and maintain our values and interests in politics and elections,” he said. 

 According to the Pew Research Center, votes cast by people under 50 dropped to 36% of total votes, down from 40% in 2018.