Fort Lewis College tapped to increase voter engagement in La Plata County
The first election of 2020 is just around the corner for La Plata County voters, with the presidential primary on March 3. Ahead of polling day, Fort Lewis College Political Science faculty and students are leading efforts to encourage students to participate in the upcoming elections.
“Fort Lewis College has the lowest voter turnout in Colorado and we’re trying to change that,” said Paul DeBell, assistant professor of Political Science.
FLC Engage is a new collaborative on campus, organized by the Political Science Department, Political Science Club, and the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Associated Students of FLC. The club facilitates discussions on issues students are interested in, hosts voter registration drives, and creates a sense of excitement around participating in politics at all levels, from ASFLC to federal elections.
“Our goal is to have energizing, exciting, nonpartisan voting engagement, for and by our students,” DeBell said. “I tell my students, whatever your passion or hobby, or even the thing that’s holding you back, there’s probably some politics there. Choosing a couple issues or perspectives is the first step to creating change on a local or national level on whatever matters to you.”
FLC Engage students not only have the chance to participate in campus voting efforts, but interact with local officials on getting out the vote in the community. They’ve teamed up with Tiffany Lee Parker, La Plata County Clerk & Recorder, to educate local teens on voter registration and participation.
“I love voting,” said Parker, La Plata County Clerk & Recorder. “I want to give everyone who can vote the opportunity to vote. And there’s no excuse not to vote.”
Parker was at FLC this month to help unveil a new on-campus ballot box and voting center. Colorado is a vote-by-mail state, but voters can return their ballots to drop boxes throughout the county in lieu of mailing. The FLC box is the fifth in the county and accessible 24-hours a day, located at the Concert Hall roundabout. On March 2 and 3, a pop-up voting center will be open in the Concert Hall.
Local representatives and organizations also helped the College celebrate the ribbon-cutting for the ballot box and recognized the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and the legal right of women to vote. State Representative Barbara McLachlan and Durango City Council member Barbara Noseworthy shared their advice on civic engagement.
“If you’re going to complain, you have to vote,” McLachlan said. “And if you voted and still have issues, you have to run for office,” added Noseworthy.
“We’re really lucky to have local officials looking to engage students and ones who actually encourage students to run for City Council,” DeBell said. “It’s only a matter of finding what fires you up, figuring out how to learn about it, and engaging.”
FLC Engage is online at www.fortlewis.edu/vote and www.instagram.com/flcengage.