Shockers Vote! engages students to be politically active

Wichita+States+Shockers+Vote%21+coalition+organized+an+early+voting+site+for+the+Sedgwick+County+community+on+Oct.+22%2C+2020+at+Charles+Koch+Arena.

Kaylee Stout / The Sunflower

Wichita State’s Shockers Vote! coalition organized an early voting site for the Sedgwick County community on Oct. 22, 2020 at Charles Koch Arena.

The United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among developed countries. Wichita State’s “Shockers Vote!” coalition is working to change this narrative.

Shockers Vote! started with a desire to inform students on how to register to vote.

“I opened my big mouth, and I said ‘what are we doing for voter and election engagement on campus?’” Fonseca said. “The answers were very minimal.”

The coalition began in 2019. Then, the group planned events and ways to increase voter turnout for the 2020 presidential election. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic stifled some of the coalition’s plans.

“The idea of the coalition is that we’re bringing together these stakeholders from faculty, staff, and students and trying to embed voter and election engagement onto campus,” Fonseca said.

The coalition hosts events and provides resources to help increase student-voter engagement. According to the 2020 National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, the coalition helped WSU increase its voting rate for students by 19.2% from 2016 to 2020. 

This year, WSU earned a Highly Established Action Plan Seal designation from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for the coalition’s work during the 2022 Kansas primary. One of their executed initiatives was hosting a polling location at Charles Koch Arena.

“(This is our) second year doing this, and it’s already being recognized as national good work,” Fonseca said. “That national recognition is super awesome.”

Charles Koch Arena became an official polling place for primary and general elections with the Sedgwick County Election Office this year.

“It was my dream that campus becomes a permanent voting site for both primary and general elections for both early voting and regular election day,” Fonseca said. “Now, we’re working on trying to get early voting.”

The group also hosts forums, roundtables and other events. Part of Shockers Vote!’s funding comes from Student Government Association to execute these events.

“I think whether or not somebody is engaged and interested in politics or they’re just learning, I hope that we kind of find ways to connect students to the election and the issues and the causes and things that are going on right now,” Loren Belew, Civic Engagement Coordinator, said.

Kian Williams, At-Large Senator and Government Relations Chair, said that as a student in Shockers Vote!, he is able to relate and connect to the student body easily.

“We provide a unique student perspective,” Williams said. “So, having student perspectives in the coalition allows us to try and find the best ways to reach students and to be as impactful as we can be.”

After wrapping up work for the state’s primary, the group is now focusing its efforts on upcoming events to engage students to vote in the 2022 Midterm Elections in November.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how these events go,” Belew said. “It’s a great opportunity to engage students in politics and voting.”

The coalition provides a multitude of volunteer opportunities for students. Those who are interested can contact Belew at [email protected]

“Everyone is welcome,” Belew said. “However much time they’re able to help – big or small is really helpful.”