Non-partisan “Walking buddies” help Marquette students vote

Marquette Votes, Office of Public Affairs and the Center for Community service created a program of non-partisan “walking buddies” to help eligible Marquette students vote. The program assisted in helping students register to vote and walking them to polling sites to vote early. “Walking buddies”  were students who were willing to accompany other students who might be nervous to go to the polls alone.

“I think that a lot of students have struggled with knowing how important this election is but not knowing exactly what they need to do to register to vote and where to go, especially with all the restrictions due to the pandemic,” Nora Graham, a “walking buddy” and sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said.

The “walking buddies” program helped students register to vote in Wisconsin. They also walked students to early polling sites starting Oct.20 when early voting opened in Wisconsin. Groups of students met at the Alumni Memorial Union and walked with a “walking buddy” to the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal building, a polling site, where students could vote early or drop off their absentee ballots.

“I think that the walking buddies program really helped with that, talking through exactly what they need to register and how to get to the polls and vote safely,” Graham said.

“Walking buddies” are non-partisan Marquette students that volunteered to assist their peers in the voting process.

“We have five Marquette students serving as walking buddies this year! They represent several different areas of campus – a few from the Center for Community Service, one Trinity Fellow and another from Marquette Votes,” Kelly Walker, director of community service, said in an email. 

Graham was one of the students that volunteered to be a “walking buddy.”

“I signed up as a walking buddy because I am of the belief that if me walking someone to the polls and taking through every step to register is what it takes for them to vote, then that is an excellent use of my free time,” Graham said.

Graham isn’t the only student on campus passionate about voting. On Marquette Now Oct.28, Riley Lade, a junior in the College of Communication, expressed her thoughts about voting. 

“It’s your right to, and you have the power to make change, so why not use it?” Lade said.

The “walking buddies” program began on Oct. 20, the first day to vote early in Wisconsin. But the program got more use as the election drew nearer.

“Significantly more students have used the program in the second week, so the week leading up to the election as they felt the urgency of not feeling it was safe to vote in person on election day,” Graham said.

“Walking buddies” was a collaboration between different departments on campus. The overall goal was to make sure that students had the resources and support to be prepared to vote in this year’s election.

“For many Marquette students, this is their first presidential election or even first election at all! We want every Marquette student who is eligible to vote to feel empowered to be part of the democratic process. Sometimes having a peer to support you makes all the difference,” Walker said in an email.

The “walking buddies” last day of operation was Oct. 30. That day, accompanied by President Lovell, many Marquette students were able to cast their ballot. 

This story was written by Megan Woolard. She can be reached at megan.woolard@marquette.edu.