Students Convince Fairfax Board to Create Mason Polling Place
Posted: November 2, 2011 at 4:34 pm, Last Updated: November 3, 2011 at 12:16 pm
By Erin Cushing
It’s November, and although the month might be best known for turkeys and football, another important event happens every November: Election Day. And thanks to the efforts of several Patriot Leaders and Student Government members, Mason will become part of that tradition, too, this year.
At its July 25 meeting, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved Mason as a polling place. The board created University precinct, which comprises primarily the Fairfax Campus, addressing Student Government leaders’ long-held belief that resident students have a real need for a convenient place to vote in local, state and national elections.
The board members’ opinions were swayed in no small way by the seven Patriot Leaders who attended the July meeting after learning of the possibility of an on-campus voting site from Mason’s chief of staff Tom Hennessey. Patriot Leaders serve as role models for new students and assist the Office of Orientation and Family Programs and Services. These students elected government and international politics major Joseph Quarcoo to speak on their behalf to the Board of Supervisors.
Passion and Eloquence Prevail
“We debated about having seven individuals speak or whether we should have one concise message,” says Mason junior Stan Heaney, a government and international politics major and one of the Patriot Leaders who attended the meeting. “We decided to have Joe speak for all of us.”
Quarcoo’s passion and eloquence were major factors in their decision.
“The issue of a student polling place was important to me,” says Quarcoo, who plans to graduate in 2013. “I was nervous at first to represent all of us, but the support and confidence the other Leaders had in me was great.”
Quarcoo enlisted Heaney’s help in writing a speech, focusing on Mason students’ desire for a polling place and the opportunity to be more involved in politics. They also focused on the economic benefits of such a move for the county, citing the new polling place as a “practical use of resources.”
“We have the same ideas and speaking styles, so we worked together well,” explains Quarcoo.
“We did have a couple of sleepless nights before the meeting trying to finish it up,” adds Heaney.
Quarcoo was slated to appear before the board at 8 p.m., but wasn’t called on to speak until 10:15 p.m., when he was allotted three minutes to make his case. With the board members’ energy waning, Quarcoo knew he had only one chance to make a good impression.
“At first I couldn’t gauge their reaction to me,” Quarcoo explains. “But then I started to see them sitting up attentively in their seats. There was a very positive reaction.”
“He was phenomenal,” continues Heaney. “As soon as he began speaking, people started to sit up in their seats and stopped writing to pay attention.”
Following Quarcoo’s speech, the board unanimously approved the creation of University precinct, surprising many who expected at least three board members to oppose the proposal.
“I have heard from members of the Fairfax County Board that Joseph was quite eloquent and that even those who might not have voted for approval were persuaded by his presentation,” says Hennessey.
Quarcoo and Heaney both acknowledge the efforts of Student Government member Daniel Boger and Student Government President Allyson Bowers to create a voting precinct at Mason. While Boger is currently studying in England and unable to help, Bowers sat alongside the Patriot Leaders at the meeting in support of Quarcoo.
Although many students on campus remain unaware of the new precinct, word is slowly spreading.
“I’ve had a few people come up to me and give me a high-five or tell me that I did a good job,” says Quarcoo.
Both he and Heaney feel grateful for having the opportunity to engage in an action that was larger than themselves and their organization and that affects the entire Mason community.
“I feel like student voices can be heard and can affect electoral and political processes. It has inspired me to pursue the things I feel strongly about,” says Quarcoo.
Both students participate in the MasonVotes campaign and plan on voting at the new polling place. On Election Day, Nov. 8, the polling site will be located in University Hall, Room 1202, and will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To learn more about the new voting precinct, read the original Gazette article here.
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