Anna Gillespie, a first-year student at Elon University, has quickly emerged as one of Elon’s rising stars in civic engagement and has demonstrated tremendous potential for public leadership. She is extremely passionate about making voting more accessible and has taken action to do her part to remove obstacles and barriers, lobbying elected officials in Virginia to pass a piece of legislation designed to increase the accessibility of mail-in voting. As a relatively new member of the Elon community, Anna already holds a leadership position with our Elon Votes! team as a Voting Ambassador, working to facilitate opportunities for her peers to register to vote and to cast their ballots during the November election. As she continues in this role, I am confident she will do much to deepen civic engagement work on our campus. Anna has tremendous potential to lead collaborative approaches to public problems now and in the future.
I spent my sophomore year of high school researching the ins and outs of the American electoral process, trying to answer my own questions that arose following the 2016 Presidential Election. Armed with information, I became passionate about combating systematic voter suppression in the United States. For over a half century, all Americans have had the right to vote; however, barriers to voting in low income areas and the failure to make Election Day a national holiday present unnecessary obstacles to one of our civic responsibilities as American citizens. These obstacles affect people of color at an astronomically higher rate than the rest of the populace, a consequence of centuries of systemic racism. In my home state of Virginia, I’ve lobbied state lawmakers to pass the No-Excuse Absentee Voting Bill, making mail in-voting more accessible to all Virginians, and worked to register voters in the Elon community and at home. As college students, we can educate ourselves about issues we may not be exposed to in our personal lives, engage in dynamic conversation, and go out into our communities with strategies to reform these systems at the state and local level, creating an America with truly free and fair elections.