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HUNTINGTON - Marshall University students and staff won't have to go far to cast their ballots come May.

Cabell County commissioners approved a resolution Thursday morning authorizing Marshall University as the county's third satellite location for early voting in the May 8 primary election.

"It seems to be the logical thing to do," Commissioner Jim Morgan said.

Commissioner Nancy Cartmill was the only commissioner to oppose the measure due to many unanswered questions concerning location, logistics and security.

"We don't know where it is. We don't know if it's handicap accessible, and what about the parking?" said Cartmill, who called in to the meeting from Washington, D.C., from a National Association of Counties conference.

Morgan said those details would be hammered out following the approval of the resolution.

"This is the first step," he said. "Without this, we can't proceed to figure these things out."

With so many unknowns, Cartmill said she could not vote in favor of the resolution.

Austin Sanders, a student senator at Marshall University, said the Marshall Student Government Association already has begun brainstorming possible locations, including the Campus Christian Center and the Student Center, which are both handicap accessible and have adjacent parking.

"The issues that students face are profound, and the opportunity that they have to vote is where they can finally change and let their voice be heard," he said.

Following significant cuts to higher education during the previous legislative session, Sanders said it is more important than ever that students and staff are given every opportunity to participate in the democratic process.

"I think that it's going to let our lawmakers know that we're here as college students and our opinions are just as valid as anyone else and that our concerns need to be addressed as well," he said.

Prior to bringing this to commissioners, Sanders said the SGA researched other universities that also served as early voting locations.

"We found that they had tremendous turnouts," he said. "College students and faculty members ... depending on the day of the week, have to deal with office hours, classes and meetings, and it makes it difficult for them to have access to early voting facilities."

Sanders said he hoped the proximity and convenience of voting on campus will encourage more of his classmates to vote.

Marshall President Jerome Gilbert said this initiative was completely student-driven and one he was proud to support. Gilbert said he has always held voting in the highest regard, having been one of the first students in the country who was permitted to vote at the age of 18.

"It's one of our primary privileges and duties as citizens of this country," Gilbert said in a statement Thursday. "Making primary voting available on our campus will be an educational opportunity as well as a convenience for our students and staff ... Perhaps most of all, it will encourage good overall citizenship and help demonstrate Marshall University's commitment to being a socially conscious and responsible community."

Early voting also takes place at the Cabell County Courthouse in Huntington and the Cabell County Sheriff's field office off Howells Mill Road in Ona.


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