December 6, 2019

County consolidates Webster into single voting precinct

The change came after years of Webster students voting in multiple precincts. In 2018, the Office of Student Engagement successfully petitioned the St. Louis County Board of Elections to open a temporary polling station on campus.

After years of three precincts covering Webster’s home campus, the St. Louis County Board of Elections implemented a measure to unify students living in on-campus housing under one voting precinct.

The St. Louis County Board of Elections added a parcel of Webster University’s campus (green) to the Jefferson Township 18th voting precinct. Final changes before 2020 will also include portions of Catalina Avenue, where Webster owns a number of student-occupied houses. Graphic courtesy of the St. Louis Board of Elections.

According to Webster News, under the reorganization, students residing in Maria Hall, West Hall, East Hall, North Hall, the Webster Village Apartments and all University-owned homes on Catalina Avenue will vote at Eden Seminary’s Schroer Commons building. The Big Bend apartments will continue to vote at Webster United Methodist Church on Bompart Avenue, and the Glen Park apartments will vote at the First Congregational Church on Lockwood Avenue.

Jennifer Stewart, director of the Office of Student Engagement, lobbied for the change in polling locations. Stewart said she thought the previous precincts just “didn’t make sense” for Webster.

“Up until the last election, students who were neighbors on campus had to go to different polling places on election day,” Stewart said.

In 2018, Stewart lobbied the St. Louis County Board of Elections to provide a temporary polling station on Webster’s campus. Students were able to vote at one polling station for the 2018 midterm election. According to Webster, the voting rate among students for the 2018 midterm election was 54.7% – more than a 20% increase from 2014. Webster won three awards for voter turnout in 2018 elections.

According to Stewart, these changes have the ability to up Webster’s previous high voter turnouts.

The next election in which Webster students will have the ability to cast their ballots comes on March 10 in the form of the Presidential Preference Primary, where voters will cast their votes for the democratic and republican nominees for president. According to a poll of 400 Missourians conducted by Show Me Victories, a marketing and consulting firm, Joe Biden leads the race at 34%.

However, according to Stewart, elections in 2020 are not without hurdles, despite the reorganization of precincts.

“We have a little bit of a challenge ahead of us with the primary elections,” Stewart said.

March 10 falls in the middle of spring break.

To combat the possibility of fewer Webster students making it to the polls, Stewart and her team have been working to educate students of the necessary steps one must take to place an absentee ballot. According to Vote.org, Missouri is one of 21 states that voters to provide an excuse for voting via absentee ballot. Absentee ballots must be notarized, as well. 

Despite the presence of a few notaries on campus, Stewart has taken it upon herself to become a notary herself.

 

Interest in the Democratic primaries recently kicked off on the campus after the Webster College Democrats hosted the first caucus for the 2020 Democratic nomination, where Sen. Bernie Sanders won the unofficial Webster vote.

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