When I saw one of my close friends had created a petition in support of making Election Day an optional excused absence day at Ithaca College, I immediately signed it. Just a few weeks after this petition was created, IC’s Student Governance Council voted unanimously to pass two bills that would allow Election Day to be an excused absence for IC students (Pierre, 2020). These bills are proposing that Election Day be an excused absence for both student voters and students who intend to be poll workers. While Ithaca College administration did not end up passing these bills, it sparked an interesting conversation.
Why is this so important?
For most college students, including myself, the upcoming election is the first presidential election they are eligible to vote in. For some, it may even be the first election they have ever been eligible to vote in. Growing up, we’re taught that voting is our constitutional right. And, now more than ever, we should be able to exercise that right. However, youth voter turnout is historically extremely low. Only 31% of eligible young voters voted in the 2018 midterm election and fewer than half of Americans 18 to 29 voted in the 2016 presidential election (Symonds, 2020).
Why is this turnout so low? Well, maybe the inability to get to the polls because of a busy class day is the reason young people have shrugged off voting. But this year, when millennials and Gen Z make up 37% of eligible voters and it is a presidential election year, the youth vote matters more than ever.
In a year when there seem to be a plethora of voting options, students should be able to choose the way they are most comfortable with voting. Even if a student is opting to vote early in person, mail-in their ballot, or vote via absentee ballot, they should be able to have the option of voting in person on November 3 without being hesitant about missing class.
There has also been a push for young poll workers this year. Because of COVID-19, many older poll workers have stepped down from their roles in hopes of protecting themselves. Additionally, according to Isaiah Murtaugh at USA Today, “in this year’s general election, recruitment of younger poll workers may be the difference between the smooth execution of a fundamental right of democracy and Election Day chaos on a national scale.” Because there are so many external factors impacting the way voting will take place this year, young poll workers may be the best bet for a successful day at the polls.
So, should colleges let Election Day be an excused absence day? I definitely think so.
According to iamavoter.com, roughly 24 million 18 to 24-year-olds are eligible to vote in the upcoming presidential election. The average college student falls into that age range. We should be allowed to exercise our right to vote without being worried we will get points docked for missing class. While an excused absence is nothing to take advantage of, I believe making Election Day an excused absence at colleges and universities is a strong investment in the future of our country. We are the future leaders and change-makers of this country, so why don’t we have free range to go to the polls on November 3 and make some change?
Pierre, S. (2020, October 06). SGC passes bills to encourage student voting in the election. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://theithacan.org/news/sgc-passes-bills-to-encourage-student-voting…
Redden, E. (2008, October 21). The Politics of Election Day Classes. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/10/21/politics-election-day-cla…
Murtaugh, I. (2020, September 28). How young poll workers may save Americans from Election Day chaos. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/09/16/why-young-poll-workers…
Symonds, A. (2020, October 08). Why Don’t Young People Vote, and What Can Be Done About It? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/08/upshot/youth-voting-2020-election.html