This is a tale about how a wee bit of election-related boredom led to inspiration.
It all starts with Dan Hudson, an unassuming first-year University Housing employee, whiling away a weekend with a few minutes of Facebook scrolling. His curiosity piqued as a post from his alma mater — the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater — featured how the Warhawks were helping students exposed to COVID-19 cast ballots in the 2020 election.
“Up to that point, I hadn’t given a second of thought to students being cut off from voting while in isolation housing,” Hudson said. “It got me thinking about our students in isolation and how that would be a bummer way to miss out on a presidential election — especially if it was your first one. So, I emailed the housing leadership team to see if we had a plan.”
Now, Hudson has a deep-rooted love for the ballot box. When he was much younger, Hudson’s parents would pull their son out of school and allow him to accompany them to the polls on election day.
It was — for as far back as he can remember — just what his family did on election day.
“To me, voting is this fun, but formal, process,” Hudson said. “Every time I walk in, I get butterflies when I look at the ballot.”
Describing the ballot as, “the most important test any of us can take,” Hudson carefully fills out his selection bubbles and reviews it four or five times before returning it to poll workers.
“I just don’t want to mess it up,” Hudson said.
Hudson’s email inquiry ignited a flurry of activity between University Housing leadership. While the ongoing COVID-19 response has flexed the university in new ways, the issue of how students in campus isolation housing could cast a vote had not been explored.
After a brief discussion, Hudson was tasked with gathering details on Wisconsin-Whitewater’s plan while other team members sought out details on how the process could be legally accomplished in the Cornhusker State.
A little more than a week after his email, Hudson was standing in line at the Lancaster County Election Commissioner’s office, armed with signed letters and related paperwork that allowed him to pick up ballots for two students in isolation housing.
“Our team did an incredible job working with the students and election commissioner,” Hudson said. “When I reached the counter at the commissioner’s office, they were super nice and there were no issues.
“They were impressed we managed to get all the info right the first time. I know that, after waiting in line for three hours, I really appreciated our attention to detail.”
Following all COVID-19 protocols, the ballots were delivered to the students and picked up after completed. Hudson dropped them off at the election office on Nov. 2.
The students — who were not interviewed for this story — expressed thanks to Hudson and the rest of the University Housing team, which included Dustin Rollins, Matt Nelson and Rob Anderson.
“We were in contact throughout the process and they were very appreciative of our efforts,” Hudson said.
Between helping the students and his own time in line for early voting, Hudson said he spent around five hours waiting to cast ballots for the 2020 general election. He said it gave him an opportunity to meet some very lovely people.
“To be honest, it’s a little bit boring when you consider all the paperwork and standing in line,” Hudson said. “But, to me, it was also important, fun and something I would do again.
“Voting is our civic duty, it can make a huge impact, and we’d all be better off if everyone participated.”