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Write to vote: promote democracy and publish your writing

| Friday, April 8, 2022

Last week, I went to an informal meeting in Coleman-Morse to learn about a new initiative called Write to Vote. After some Domino’s thin-crust pizza, a compelling pitch for the project and an exchange of ideas, I walked away inspired.

Professor John Duffy from the Department of English — well known in Arts and Letters for his CSEM “Great Speeches,” and a recipient of the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at Notre Dame — along with his colleagues across universities, created the Write to Vote Project in anticipation of the 2022 midterms, the first major election cycle after an extraordinary year of voter suppression. According to the project’s call to action:

Voting rights in the United States are under attack. The Write to Vote Project (W2V) is a nationwide initiative of over 60 faculty members at 49 colleges and universities founded to help college students write and publish essays on topics related to voting rights in a democracy. […] Your voice matters. The Write to Vote Project invites you to speak out by writing about topics related to voting rights in the United States.”

Here’s the gist: our voices as university students are powerful, and they can be amplified through publication in local or even national venues. Why not use our voices to write in support of democracy and voting rights? With the support of faculty and fellow students through W2V, you could write an op-ed to submit to your local paper, a letter to your Congressperson, a historical analysis for The Observer or anything else that sparks your interest. You could even take an academic approach and consider how the topic of voting rights fits in with your major courses and make voting rights the subject of a research paper or senior project.

The right to vote touches us all — Democrats and Republicans, young and old, rich and poor. Even if you are not eligible to vote, your life is shaped by those who can and do vote in elections. We can use the privilege of our advanced education to write about voting rights and promote democracy. 

If you are feeling like this is a bit out of your wheelhouse, let me reassure you: I have never taken a class specifically on voting rights or done much reading beyond major news coverage and headlines, and I have never published anything in a journalistic setting. (In fact, this letter to the editor is my first piece of public writing, and it may well represent the first student publication to come out of W2V.) I showed up to the first W2V meeting with nothing more than an open mind and my own experiences as a young voter. I found that surrounded by my peers in a supportive space, I had plenty to say and even a few ideas for things to write.

At this initial informational meeting, we had an impromptu brainstorming session and I heard my peers’ ideas for topics, ranging from the voting habits we form in campus elections to a local voting history of someone’s hometown. Professor Duffy listened to our ideas and offered suggestions of ways that he and the W2V group could nurture our individual projects. I can already tell that W2V will be an encouraging, productive writing workshop and campus network for anyone interested in the intersection of public writing and political activism.

Our next meeting is Wednesday, April 13, at 8 p.m. at the University Writing Center in Coleman-Morse. Snacks will be served. All are welcome. For more information, write to Professor Duffy at [email protected]

I warmly invite you to join us. 

Julianne Downing


March 31

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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