Northwest has made a conscious effort to encourage students to vote in Maryville and Nodaway County through the Office of Student Involvement and the Student Senate.
On average, students spend eight to nine months of the year in Maryville, so registering to vote locally and have representation in a town where they spend the majority of the year is something that Northwest has pushed.
Student Senate Executive Vice President Debrielle Patee-Merrill says that she and the Office of Student Involvement have been trying to motivate students to register to vote in Maryville, especially in local elections.
“I think it is really important for students to have the representation that they are entitled to,” Patee-Merrill said. “We are working, shopping and living here, and we should be able to use our right of representation and vote here as well.”
Patee-Merrill’s brother, Dannen Merrill, is running for one of the two open seats on Maryville’s City Council this April, though Patee-Merill said she’s been advocating for increased student voter registration and participation since well before his candidacy, dating back to when she was 16 years old.
Nodaway County Clerk Melinda Patton said that students voting here can significantly impact the outcome of decisions, and that they should have representation within the city if they want. Only 774 Maryville voters weighed in on the Use Tax ballot initiative in April of last year, a measure that passed in a 452-322 vote, according to The Maryville Forum. In April 2016, an eighth-of-a-cent tax increase needed to build the Mozingo Conference Center passed 588-583, according to The Forum.
Patton also mentioned that being registered to vote in Nodaway County would make voting for federal elections easier than if students were registered to vote in their hometowns.
During the 2020 presidential election, Patee-Merrill said some students let absentee ballot dates pass them by and then had to skip classes to drive home and vote, only to drive back the same day.
“If students take the preemptive steps and register to vote here in Maryville, what became a chore that took an entire day is now something that took me 10 minutes to do,” Patee-Merrill said. “I think it benefits the students and the community.”
Not only do they want students to vote in federal elections, but also in local elections like the upcoming City Council election in April. Patton said that voting in this upcoming election would bring representation to students because the people on the ballots will ultimately affect them with the decisions made.
Governmental Affairs Committee and Nontraditional Student Representative TJ Goldizen urges students to start paying attention and voting in Maryville in their early years at Northwest.
“It is really important for freshmen to vote because this will be your home for the next four years,” Goldizen said. “It is important to register to vote in Nodaway County because whoever you vote for in the next election is going to affect your taxes amongst hotels, restaurants and gas.”
Students in Maryville can use their votes to vocalize their opinions on topics in town. Patee-Merrill said she saw this on a preposition to City Council seven years ago.
“There was a really big issue on the city council to propose to change the age to be in a bar up to 21,” Patee-Merrill said. “That was something that students were very vocal about.”
With the representation from students on this issue, the age to be in a bar in Maryville is still 19.
“There is a lot the city and the University can collaborate on and work together for, and the first step of that is representation,” Patee-Merrill said.
Freshman Yolimarisa Guerrero said she is currently registered to vote in Blue Springs, Missouri, but she is considering reregistering to vote in Maryville because she will be living here full-time.
If students are considering registering or reregistering to vote in Maryville, they have multiple options to do so other than going in person to the Office of the County Clerk in the Administration Center.
“You just need to make sure you have that photo ID,” Patee-Merrill said. “In the state of Missouri, you can do it all online, and there is also a mail-in option. I actually registered to vote for the first time on my cell phone; it’s that simple.”
Northwest continues to encourage students to vote not only in national elections, but also in elections that affect everyone on and off campus.
Patton encourages students to vote where they feel most comfortable and to visit the Office of the County Clerk if students want to register to vote in Nodaway County.
“If you’re not registered to vote here in Nodaway County, do it,” Goldizen said. “It’ll help out not just yourself, but your family, friends and community in the long run.”