Civic responsibilities should trump class | The Triangle

Civic responsibilities should trump class

While you were watching YouTube videos in your civic engagement class, the polls were closing without your vote. The solution? Drexel University should not hold classes on
election day.

Voter turnout in the last election was dismal. Only an estimated 36.6% of eligible Americans voted, the lowest rate since 1942, when many of the country’s voters were off at war. Voter apathy is at an all-time high, and people just don’t care
any more.

Or do they? Polls in Pennsylvania opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 8 p.m. While this may suit the white-collar office worker on bankers’ hours (9 to 5), for many people it’s still inconvenient or impossible. Students can be amongst these people: the academic day doesn’t end at five or even begin at nine. Imagine you commute, and you have an early morning and a late class, plus a lunchtime or so class. When can a student find time to vote?

Or worse, what if you’re registered in your home district … in Pottstown. Are you really going to drive all the way back just to vote, then drive back for your 3 p.m. class?

Sure, there’s absentee ballots, but some people don’t realize they’re going to vote until election day, and others didn’t register in time, and others have a whole host of other excuses. In America, the franchise has become a privilege, not a right. In Pennsylvania, for example, inmates currently serving prison sentences cannot vote. However, we’ve also set the precedent through many amendments to the Constitution that all American citizens (and in some states even non-citizens, until 1928) ought to be able to vote. Today, the main limiting factor is time.

Which is why the University should cancel classes on election day. It’s the civically responsible thing to do. Giving students time off to participate in the democratic process is good for Drexel, it’s good for Philadelphia, it’s good for Pennsylvania, and it’s good for America. Especially in the depths of midterms, it’s difficult to find time to vote, so why not make time? Fall term is unique in that it has a full extra week to compensate for two days lost to Thanksgiving break, leaving us with three extra days to spare. Why not use one of those extras for
election day?

Furthermore, if anything, cancelling classes gives a lot more significance to election day, psychologically speaking. If the University is giving you the courtesy of cancelling classes so that you, the student, can participate in the democratic process, does it not behoove you to go ahead and do so?

Many municipalities and public institutions have off on the day of elections to allow their staff to vote. Drexel, though it is private, should follow suit. What better way to commit to civic engagement than to allow your students to engage civically?