At 18, second year Charlotte johnson is embarking on his first election – a presidential election. Instead of keeping his head down and just going to the polls, Johnson wanted to make a difference at Duke Athletics.
Due to Duke’s COVID-19 guidelines, the field hockey team arrived on campus in late July and went through a period of isolation. During this quarantine period, Johnson began to think about how she might impact the upcoming election.
“The idea came to me when we first got here this summer and had to quarantine,” Johnson said. “I thought it would be a positive way for athletes to use their platforms – the same way professional athletes have expressed their voices about social justice and the fight for your rights.”
Political affiliation aside, Johnson wanted everyone to be an advocate and realize that they have the power to make a difference while hopefully influencing family, friends and supporters in the process. . Trying to get the ball rolling, she took the initiative in her electoral campaign to Bob weiseman – a senior associate director of athletics and administrator of the sport of field hockey.
“She had quite a presentation with everything she wanted to do, and it was pretty impressive,” Weiseman said. “The department was working on voting initiatives, but Charlotte was the first student-athlete I knew who was ready to step up and push. Her overall preparation and ability to put her passionate thoughts into something organized with such depth blew me away. “
Weiseman found Johnson’s grand vision remarkable. She didn’t just want all field hockey players to register – she was targeting all teams, totaling over 650 student-athletes.
After seeing her presentation, Weiseman put her in touch with Taren moore, the Director General of Human Resources, and Leslie barnes who is the Assistant Sports Director for Student Athlete Development.
“To the administration – I explained why we had to do this, why it would be good for us and how we can influence our community,” Johnson said. “I also thought it would be a good marketing tool and the aim was to motivate the great community in Durham, the fans or other schools as well.”
Moore and Barnes, who worked closely with the Duke Votes campus staff, found a way to work with the University to ensure their vision was channeled through Johnson’s campaign. The next step would be to present his plan to the Duke Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
“What I presented to SAAC is why voting is important and how the use of our voice impacts the future,” said the second. “I know we are running all the time and we are busy, but it’s really important to take the time to focus on what makes our country work.”
From there, each team rep on SAAC reported the message to their respective programs. Johnson created a poll of voters, trying to gauge who was or was not registered. She admitted that it was difficult to get answers without harassing people to fill it out, but she got 141 responses.
Within Duke’s External Relations Department, Meredith rieder and Hunter Richardson helped SAAC, working closely with the committee to develop a plan, gather information and create educational graphics that would be promoted through social media channels. Their goal was to amplify the voices of the student-athlete-led initiative to increase voter registration and participation among the Duke family.
Wanting to make the voter registration form easily accessible to all student-athletes at Duke, Moore worked closely with Teamworks to download the document. Student-athletes could then print the form, fill it out, and leave it in a drop box located in the Murray Weight Room. From there, Moore made several trips to the County Durham Electoral Board to return them.
Of those eligible, Duke had 10 teams 100% registered to vote. These teams include field hockey, baseball, men’s soccer, volleyball, softball, women’s lacrosse, men’s lacrosse, swimming and diving, women’s basketball and men’s basketball.
“The idea was to register all of our student-athletes to vote because of optics – it would be an effective way to represent the sports department in times of unrest,” Johnson said.
Weiseman notes how special it was to have staff members and student-athletes pushing for everyone to sign up, combined with whatever is happening due to the pandemic.
“There has been global buy-in and mutual support,” Weiseman said. “I think we all understand that there are important issues on the table and that everyone’s voices need to be heard. To some extent, this couldn’t be at a better time, as we are all united to try. to overcome the pandemic. We have an opportunity to continue this progress with issues that are more important to our entire community. “
Now is the time for them to develop a voting plan. In North Carolina, early voting began Oct. 15 and continues through Oct. 31. Johnson and Moore have both insisted on using the polling station on the Duke campus at the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center.
“It’s a luxury for us because not all institutions have a voting site,” Moore said. “We’ve gone from how to register to vote to information about ballot content. Help people understand what they are voting for in a non-partisan way. “
Moore called Johnson a “real leader” because she took it upon herself to create a plan and carry it out while educating others in the process.
The founding of the election campaign had a big impact on Johnson, especially since this is his first presidential election. She saw that she was advantaged and wanted to use her privilege to inspire others. To be cliché, she wanted to make a difference and convince others to use their power in a positive way.