A dedicated group of students, faculty and local residents has spent the better part of the past year equipping the William & Mary community with the information and skills they need to vote in this year’s election.
The Voter Engagement Action Committee was formed by William & Mary’s Office of Community Engagement last year with the stated goal of “enhancing W&M's mission of civic engagement among students by sharing information to build capacity, knowledge, skills and values that prepare students for an active and informed role in democracy.”
“Our mission has really been voter awareness,” said Rich Thompson, associate director of W&M’s Office of Community Engagement. “We make sure we have all the timetables and dates and the resources for people to access the information they need to make sure they're prepared to vote, either early absentee, or in-person or in-person early.”
He added that in-person early voting is still available for Virginia residents until Oct. 31.
“It’s not too late for people to vote early, if that’s what they want to do,” Thompson said.
A core tenet of the committee has been to engage voters in a non-partisan way, Thompson explained. Their mission is to compile and distribute accurate information about the voting process, not promote policies or candidates.
“That's the main thing we are very conscious of,” Thompson said. “We’re not partisan in any form or fashion. I’ve been pretty adamant about that from the start. We really just want to make sure that people have the information they need to be able to cast their votes.”
Thompson said a focal point of the project for him has been fostering collaboration between the students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the local Williamsburg community who serve on the committee.
“They’re all learning from each other,” Thompson said. “That's been the beauty of the committee, taking in all these perspectives and moving forward together with a general mandate of presenting information in a non-partisan approach to create voter awareness.”
For Caleb Rogers ’20, the experience of serving on the committee has been deeply rewarding and one he hopes has translated into more of the W&M community being educated on how to vote.
“We're very hopeful the VEAC has impacted students, so they understand the importance of voting,” said Rogers, who was elected to Williamsburg City Council shortly after graduating with a degree in public policy in May of 2020.
Those wishing to get involved with the committee are encouraged to visit their website, which also provides answers to frequently asked voting questions. Going forward, Thompson says the committee will continue to provide students opportunities to collaborate and develop civic leadership skills.
“I will always be asking these questions,” Thompson said. “How can we empower students? How can we connect students to people that can offer a different perspective? And how do we set them up to have skills to move forward beyond their university experience?”
For more information and resources on the election, visit wm.edu/election.
Nathan Warters contributed reporting.