Election Day for College Students?

Hailey Glasnovich

Election Day is one of the most important days of the year for citizens to have an impact on the state and national scale. 

A lot of Augustana College students do not vote. According to the Augustana College website, data from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement showed that only 56.6% of Augustana students voted in the 2018 election. To me, this number is surprisingly high.

Out-of-state students must request an absentee ballot in order to vote for their home state. This process has to be started quite a bit in advance in order to be approved in time for Election Day. The absentee ballots need to be mailed back as well, which requires persistence and time management. During this time of year, when midterms just ended and finals are quickly approaching, college students do not think enough in advance to do so.

This option does not apply to the international students who cannot participate in Election Day. In 2020, 11.9% of the Augustana student population was made up of international students. This statistic creates a gap when it comes to eligibility of voting for the Augustana population.

Additionally, students still have class on Election Day, potentially leaving locals or those who changed their permanent residency to the Rock Island area no time to vote at a polling place.

“I do think I will vote, but realistically, I don’t have time because I have class[es] all day and [swim] practice. So it probably won’t happen,” Olivia White said, a junior Augustana commuter student from Moline, Illinois.

I think for some students it might not be an issue to vote during a class day. However if there is a schedule conflict, Augustana should abide in allowing an excused absence to go vote. Since some professors cancel class, Augustana could theorize canceling the entire day in order to maximize the number of potential student voters.

According to usatoday.com, Illinois employers provide two hours of paid leave on Election Day if employees do not have any other free time available to go to their polling place. So why shouldn’t Augustana do the same for its students?

Even if Augustana college were registered as a polling place, this would not fix the problem. Polling places are assigned to every person, so unless students have changed their residency to Rock Island, they would not be able to utilize the polling place.

As a commuter, I have the ability to go to my polling place before coming to campus. Realistically, only those from the Quad Cities area would be able to participate in Election Day by going to a physical polling place if they have the time.

It does not seem logical for underclassmen living in residence halls to vote simply because there is no address for them to change their residency to. Upperclassmen have the option to change their address to a TLA that they are living in during the school year, but that ultimately seems like more trouble than it’s worth.

The best solution would be for Augustana to promote absentee voting more. Helping students know when and how they should request for an absentee ballot would create a wider student voting population.