After a dismal 2.36% of Duke students voted in the 2021 municipal primary elections on October 5th, Durham County realized something had to be done about low youth turnout in elections. Their solution? Placing a polling site in Shooters Saloon.
“The difference in turnout has been remarkable,” says Dawn Baxton, chair of the local board of elections. “We’ve already seen 50% of the student population vote early and think we could very well hit 100% participation by election day on November 3.” An analysis done by The Chronicle last week supports this prediction, as the only people on campus who don’t go to Shooters vote in municipal elections like it’s their job.
When asked about the importance of getting out the vote, Sanford student sophomore Sally Shleming was pumped. “I’ve got a countdown timer leading up to every election, just to keep things in perspective,” she said, and whipped out her laptop to prove it, as if there was any reason why you would lie about something like that. “Only 1107 days to go!”
“Oh, are there local elections? I mean, if I can vote at Shoots I guess I’ll do it.”
The value of a location so convenient to undergraduates cannot be understated. “There is no way I would’ve voted if they hadn’t brought it here,” admitted Chad Bëëfstik, a senior studying Economics, as he walked me through his experience voting in a municipal election for the first time. “I spend 100% of my time either at Shooters or the gym, so the whole ‘going to some elementary school or a library to vote’ thing was not gonna happen. But I’m glad I fulfilled my civic duty. I’m lowkey kinda wasted though, I got up there and I couldn’t read any of the names so I just wrote in “Hugh Jass.””
The decision has also been a huge boon for business. Jack Hardy is one of many first year students who went to Shooters for the first time this weekend in lieu of the news. “You know,” he pontificated (Editor’s Note: Hardy requested we use that word to describe him thinking), “I’m not really the Shooters type. So, when 10 p.m. on Saturday rolled around, I was where I always am: curled up in bed with a nice cup of herbal tea and a fresh copy of "Lolita." But, when my friends told me I could vote at Shooters, I knew Humbert and Dolores were gonna have to wait.”
Not everyone is so excited. A number of students across campus have complained that Shooters has gotten too political since allowing the nonpartisan board of elections to do their job. One student, who prefers to remain anonymous out of fear of social backlash, is worried about how this environment could sway the final result. “I’m all for this change and getting out the vote,” she explained, “but I am a little bit nervous about me and my sorority sisters because this weird thing happens when we get drunk where we become Republicans, and I know we aren’t the only ones.”
The biggest opponents of the new location, however, have been the poll workers. Interactions between the Duke community and Durham residents are often fraught, but for 83 year-old Theresa Mullen, the past week has been especially infuriating: “The first time someone voted for Hugh Jass, I’ll admit, I chuckled. But then it just kept happening. I was a huge proponent of this new site, but I’m starting to wonder if asking drunk students to vote is a good idea. I’ve personally administered 1,500 ballots and at least a thousand of them were votes for Jass.”
Whether you like this move or not, it is undeniable that it has triggered an increase in voting activism on campus. Alexyei Dimitriov, a Trinity international student, has welcomed the change in tides. “I can’t vote, so I’ve definitely been coming out to Shooters more now to try and sway the room towards voting. I just want to make sure that everyone knows their options,” he said through a thick Russian accent. “Speaking of, have I given you my Hugh Jass pitch yet?”
Regardless of where you decide to cast your ballot, vote. Local elections are extremely important and hold more sway over the lives of everyday people than almost any decision in D.C. will. You can register and vote early at a number of polling sites (including the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center) until October 31st, or vote on the day of the election (November 2nd) at your assigned polling location. For more information, visit vote.duke.edu/voting-in-north-carolina/.
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