Valley Votes Project Encourages Student Voters


Mackenzie Hammack

Seniors Gee High and Santia Fields tabled in front of the KCC on Friday morning.

Mackenzie Hammack and Aidan Cruggs

Bridgewater, Va.- The Valley Votes Project is working to increase trust in elections across the Shenandoah Valley, and part of this project includes encouraging Bridgewater students to register to vote and learn how to be informed about the upcoming election.

The Valley Votes Project is funded by grants and is a collaborative effort across the Shenandoah Valley. The project is made up of multiple parts, including the current voter registration drive, a six part speaker series and a TikTok contest with a prize of $200.

“We realized how important [rebuilding trust in elections] is in the Shenandoah Valley and how important it is just to have these conversations and to really work on addressing concerns people have about elections as well as thinking through, ‘What are ways we could encourage voter engagement and voter registration?’” said Associate Professor of Political Science Bobbi Gentry.

Students have been tabling in the KCC lobby from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays for the Valley Votes Project to help boost student voting registration on campus. However, not many students are taking advantage of the services offered by the voter registration table.

“Students are very scared of voting, so it’s hard to get students to actually come to the table,” said senior Gee High, who works at the voter registration table. “They’re kind of just disillusioned with the idea of voting.”

Voter registration tabling will continue until Oct. 17, which is the deadline to register to vote in Virginia. Starting on Oct. 18, voter registration tabling will be replaced with voter education tabling to help students research their ballot, learn how to be informed about candidates, decide between candidates and find reliable sources of information.

“When you start voting early on in your life, you’re more likely to participate later on in life,” said Gentry. “The value of voting is also that it’s a habit, and like any habit, you have to learn how to form it.”

To encourage voting, the college is also partnering with Motivote, which awards students points and prizes for preparing to vote, and is organizing rides for students to the polls on election day.

“There’s really important issues coming up, especially with school boards in this area, that have direct decision-making on issues that communities face such as transgender student rights or what is taught in classrooms and how is history talked about and discussed with students,” said Gentry. “These are important issues that we are dealing with in the Shenandoah Valley because the school boards are dealing with and addressing, and these are elected positions that these people fulfill.”