Editorial: Give us the time to vote

The United States is one of the only democratic countries that holds elections on weekdays. This can often lead to conflicts between going to the polls and other responsibilities like work, school and taking care of family.

A law that was originally passed in 1845 to establish this voting schedule is not only extremely outdated, but wasn’t created to keep up with the realities of a modern society.

To ensure accessibility for voters, a growing number of voting advocates and lawmakers have pushed to make Election Day a federal holiday, allowing many places of business to close to ensure that people have the time to make their voices heard.

However, even without national measures, local communities and entities such as universities can make their own efforts to support the democratic process. Should they so choose, higher education institutions can create a day off for elections so that students and staff have the opportunity to vote.

While Grand Valley State University officials and entities have made great strides in their efforts to boost on-campus turnout – efforts that have shown to be effective according to data from the Campus Vote Project and the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement – relieving campus community members of collegiate responsibilities on this all-important day is a critical step in assuring that as many students and faculty as possible are able to participate in this sacred democratic process.

With the intense polarization of relevant entities including the United States Postal Service in recent years, many are now worried that their ballots may not even be counted in time for the elections should they vote absentee. This could make students unlikely to vote amidst concern that their voices will not be heard.

Furthermore, the ability to make time to participate in government helps students to take their education into action. Education helps create an informed electorate that is key to a functioning democracy. If universities hope to create involved citizens, they must foster an environment that leaves as much space as possible for these vital societal elements outside the classroom.

GVSU brings in students from both in-state and out-of-state areas. Many of these students don’t want to re-register to vote in the Allendale area, whether due to their removal from the impact of local policies or their lack of knowledge of local candidates and proposals. As active participants in our democratic system, students must have the ability to exercise their right to vote on issues that surround their permanent residence and must be afforded every opportunity to do so. By giving students the day off to go home and vote, they are given the chance to vote in elections that greatly impact them and their families.

Given the sanctity of this crucial process and the civic duty students have as citizens to participate in such, this editorial board urges GVSU to reform its academic policy to exempt the campus community from their collegiate duties including classes and other responsibilities on Election Day to encourage vibrant, necessary and patriotic turnout.