Early Voting Site to Return to Campus for 2012 General Election

Durham County residents and Duke students can register and vote on-campus beginning Oct. 18

Students, staff and faculty have come together once again to ensure that Duke will have an early election site for the upcoming presidential elections.

An on-campus one-stop voting site will open to voters on Thursday, Oct. 18, and remain open until Saturday, Nov. 3, in the Old Trinity Room in the West Campus Building.

Durham County residents and Duke students are eligible to vote at the site if they are a U.S. citizen and a legal resident of Durham County for 30 days by the date of the election. Voters must be at least 18 years old, although individuals who are 17 can register and vote if they will be 18 by the date of the General Election. Eligible voters who are unregistered may register to vote at the time of voting, and students currently registered in another state will also be able to register and vote at the same time. (A complete schedule of early voting sites in Durham can be found here.)

Duke Student Government (DSG) was one of the primary student organizations involved in bringing the site to Duke.  On-campus early voting first occurred in the 2008 general election.

"This summer, we worked with administrators and the Durham County Board of Elections to do everything we could to ensure that a site would be on campus," said Derek Rhodes, DSG vice president of Durham and regional affairs.

Now that the Durham County Board of Elections has approved the site, these same student groups are working to ensure a strong voter turnout.  DSG and other student groups such as the Black Student Alliance, Duke Democrats, Duke College Republicans, Duke Political Union, Duke the Vote, and Duke Partnership for Service have organized a variety of events to encourage Duke students to become involved in the electoral process and vote.              

"These organizations were on board from the beginning and excited about the chance to collaborate," Rhodes said. "We have met and agreed to host events on campus with the simple goal of getting students excited about the election. We have four scheduled events, all of which are non-partisan, that ensure students are aware of the option to vote on campus."

Within the next two weeks, these organizations are planning to hold an Early Voting Celebration event, a Motive and Voter Registration Night to encourage first-year students to register on East Campus, a mock debate, and a Results Viewing Party.

Rhodes said that the group of organizations working together is the first non-partisan coalition working toward increasing voter registration and turnout among Duke students.

The interest of student organizations was also a strong factor in bringing an early election site to Duke during the primary elections in April of this year, said Mike Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. More than 2,000 votes were cast at Duke for the May 8 primary election in which North Carolina citizens voted on Amendment 1, according to the News and Observer.

The Durham Board of Elections supported the on-campus early voting site only after students and administration demonstrated to the election commission that there was enough student interest. DSG presented the board with a petition that included several thousand signatures, Schoenfeld said.

The groups also used the positive experience of on-campus early voting in 2008.  That year, Gunther W. Peck, associate professor of public policy and history, worked with administrators to bring on-campus voting to Duke to encourage higher voter turnout among Duke students. More than 9,300 people voted in the 2008 general election.

"[In 2008] there was strong interest on the part of students and faculty to make voting more convenient," Schoenfeld said. "They worked with the administration, the board of elections and the elections commissioner, and the site was very successful."

As per North Carolina regulations, a registered Durham voting center like Duke is open to Durham county residents only, Michael E. Perry, director of Durham County Board of Elections, wrote in an e-mail. Students who are eligible to vote can register either in North Carolina or in the state in which they reside.

An independent voting site, Duke must abide by federal law prohibiting use of facilities to promote organizations or individuals campaigning for public office. Duke must also make sure that the number of voters inside the Old Trinity Room does not exceed fire safety requirements, said Jim Slaughter, manager for Duke Special Events and Facility Operations. Slaughter noted that there were no significant security issues in the 2008 elections or in the 2012 primary.

Duke's election site also offers the option of drive-up voting for Durham residents with disabilities, Slaughter said.  

"Given our experiences [in both the 2008 and primary elections], it's safe to say that Duke will be an early voting for presidential elections in the future, as well," Schoenfeld said. 

Duke References for Voting

Community Service Center Guide for Voting

Duke University Libraries: Voting 101

Duke Voting Policy