In response to low voter participation throughout the country, two Williams students have created a program which has eased the process fellow students must undertake to register to vote and obtain absentee ballots. Called the Williams Voting Initiative (WVI), the program has been met with resounding acclaim, as it has more than doubled the number of students registered to vote in Williamstown.
Hall O’Donnell ’03 and Saif Vagh ’03, working through College Council (CC), are the co-coordinators of the program. WVI was conceived, O’Donnell said, not only because of low voter turnout throughout the country, but specifically here on the Williams campus.
“I became particularly frustrated when I had learned how many people I know on this campus did not vote in the 2000 presidential election,” O’Donnell said.
He added that the only way for the democratic system to work fairly is for people to apply their democratic right to vote. With this in mind, the Williams Voting Initiative was created.
Students at the College are probably familiar with the Initiative’s tables in Baxter, with their participants calling out to students, urging them to register to vote, either in Williamstown or in their home state.
The program also helped students receive absentee ballots, O’Donnell said, by “filling in students’ personal information on necessary forms and drafting letters of request all meeting the various, individual state formats.” The program also had plans to shuttle students to poll locations on Election Day, but the Dean’s Office has already made that service available to students.
This year, WVI registered nearly a fifth of the student body, over 350 students, to vote, and helping more than 200 students obtain absentee ballots. O’Donnell calls the group’s success “tremendous.”
Still, some students have not received their absentee ballots as of yet, which O’Donnell says put a damper on the program’s successes. He wished that the Initiative had been started at an earlier date and is “dismayed by the discrepancy between what I had been told by many state officials and what had actually happened in some cases.”
O’Donnell and Vagh hope to use WVI to start a recognized group on campus with a broader goal in mind.
“It seems apparent to me that a non-partisan group without any particular