OPINION: How to help more KSU students get out and vote on Election Day

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Dear editor and Kent State University community, 

Election Day is just over a month away, and I’m worried. 

I’m clearly not the only one; London Green’s recent opinion piece for KentWired, “Why spreading voting knowledge is so important,” addresses the importance of overcoming apathy, educating ourselves and those around us and making our voices heard on November 3. But I’m concerned about another aspect of the political process: Election Day is structured in a way that makes it difficult for college students to participate. 

Between classes, work, extracurricular activities, social lives and other responsibilities, our lives are already incredibly busy. Carving out a window between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Election Day can be legitimately impossible under the best of circumstances, not to mention with the additional stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I’ve requested my mail-in ballot already, and I encourage you to do the same, especially if you’re registered out-of-state or in a hometown far from Kent. However, I’m bracing myself for the possibility that it doesn’t arrive in time or arrives with mistakes, as has been happening in New York. I may need to go home to vote, a 45-minute drive that may require me to miss class or call off of work. I’m lucky to have lenient professors and a financial situation in which missing a shift is not a problem; however, the ability to vote should not be contingent on that kind of privilege. 

Recently, I sent an email to the dean of my college and the chairs of my departments that read as follows:

“I am reaching out to you today because Election Day is quickly approaching. This is an incredibly pivotal moment for the country and college students’ voices deserve to be heard. However, while college-aged individuals make up 20% of the voting population, only 40% of eligible college-aged individuals voted in the 2018 midterm elections.

“According to an article from CNBC, non-voters cite scheduling conflicts as one of their top reasons for not participating in elections. Weekday voting is disproportionately difficult for single parents, those who work multiple jobs, emergency workers, and low-income people; additional issues are also anticipated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All of these circumstances affect college students: 14.1% of college students are single parents71% work in addition to attending school, and 20% are low-income. Many also lost jobs, had an uptick in mental health issues, and are facing a host of other problems that will compound the difficulties they face when trying to vote.

“As a result, I’m writing to request that [department/college] acknowledge and accommodate students’ right to vote by making Election Day (Tuesday, November 3) a day of asynchronous instruction. This would allow students the flexibility to vote on their own timetable while not interrupting the educational process.

“Many universities have already made similar moves, from Indiana University and the University of Texas’s pause on all sporting events on Election Day to Brown and Harvard’s daylong shutdowns of all operations, as have many major companies and the entire states of Virginia and Illinois. I hope you consider this as a possibility for Kent State, too!”

As I’m waiting for responses, I encourage all of you to send similar emails to your deans, chairs, work supervisors and even individual professors. If even one class or shift is canceled, if even one more student is able to exercise their hard-won constitutional right to cast a ballot, that is a victory.

Moira Armstrong is a guest columnist. Contact her at [email protected] 

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Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.