In an effort to get more students to the polls for midterm elections, Duke is partnering with North Carolina Central University to provide transportation to early voting sites.

The Go Vote Early program—led by the Committee for a Joint NCCU-Duke Program in African, African-American and Diaspora Studies—will transport students and employees from Duke to an early voting polling site at NCCU in late October. Duke does not have an early voting site of its own on campus. With new voter identification laws in place and North Carolina's hotly contested senate seat in the national spotlight, the student vote has become an area of particular focus for activist groups across the state.

"The low rate of voting overall in mid-term elections is an unfortunate feature of American politics, giving those few who do vote undue influence," said Naomi Quinn, professor emerita of cultural anthropology and an administrator of the Committee for a Joint NCCU-Duke Program. "College students are just one group that doesn't go to the polls in large numbers."

Following new voter identification regulations passed last year, several college campuses across the state have seen their early polling sites disappear. Duke did not have an early voting site for the 2010 midterm election, although an early polling site was on campus for the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and for the 2012 primary election. But several North Carolina campuses which traditionally have held early voting for midterm elections—including North Carolina State University and Appalachian State University—also had their polling sites taken away earlier this year.

Quinn said she hopes Go Vote Early will encourage students—who have a history of being absent at polls, she noted—to play a key role early in this decisive race.

"The principle behind this event is simply to get out more voters," Quinn said.

Go Vote Early will be running vans between the two campuses throughout the day from Oct. 28 to Oct. 30. Quinn added that she has collaborated with both Duke College Republicans and Duke Democrats for the program, along with Duke administrators and has received an "enthusiastic" response across the board.

The senate race between incumbent Democratic senator Kay Hagan and Speaker of the N.C. House Thom Tillis has been tight, especially as the election enters its final weeks. Deemed the nation's most important Senate race by the Washington Post, North Carolina has the potential to tip the scales in the competition for party control.

As the election draws nearer, Duke Student Government has also played an active role in pushing students to register and participate in voting. Sophomore Tanner Lockhead, a DSG senator for Durham and Regional Affairs, said he felt that Go Vote Early will give students a way to express their interest in the voting process.

"Right now, even in a midterm election, the student body is clearly enthusiastic about voting," Lockhead said. "In the past, transportation to the polls has been key for students to make their voices heard, and there's no reason why DSG shouldn't make [voting] as easy as possible."

Lockhead encouraged all students to vote in the election, whether through early or regular polling.

"It's incredibly important that students voice their opinions at the ballot box," Lockhead said. "Duke students have something to say, and we're working hard to make sure they can say it."