IU-Bloomington was ranked 14th in the nation for student voting by Washington Monthly magazine. IU-Purdue University Indianapolis was 13th on the list.
A ranking in the top-20 colleges in the country for civic engagement is no small feat, and undoubtedly something to be celebrated. However, there is more the University could do.
Considering the fact most students’ lives revolve around school, the University could be doing more to encourage student voting.
Voter registration is available to students on campus at the Herman B Wells Library and Student Central. While this is a good start, the mere availability of registration only affects as many students as are willing to actively seek it out. It is likely that the majority of students will not pursue these resources. Registration tables inside academic buildings are a much more effective method of recruiting voters.
Such tables can be found on campus at times, but these pop-up registration stations are the efforts of student groups and local campaigns. While their presence is appreciated, IU should not be coasting on third parties to register its student voters.
Some professors allow guests to come to their classes with voter registration materials to be distributed, but these sorts of efforts are often limited to courses in the political sphere. Voter registration may be more relevant to the coursework of a political science major, but business and theater majors should have the same accessibility to voter registration as any other student. Registration materials should be readily available near the entrance of all academic buildings, so that any student can easily and effortlessly register.
Professors can help increase voter turnout regardless of the University’s actions. Putting Election Day in the syllabus takes only seconds, and could be the reminder a student needs to plan on voting Nov. 6.
Additionally, professors ought to be more lenient regarding absences on Election Day. This may seem naive or excessive to some, but it’s important to account for students that work jobs and have several classes in a day. Many working students struggle to find time for homework as is. Voting is another item on their to-do list, but because it isn’t graded or paid, it will likely get pushed to the bottom.
A University-wide day off of class to allow students and faculty to vote would ensure that students were aware of Election Day in advance and had the opportunity to vote. Some Indiana schools have days off for voting, but this is usually limited to schools that double as polling places. For a university, it would be more unprecedented.
Furthermore, IU could also be doing more to ensure faculty and members of the Bloomington community are able to vote. Many University faculty and staff members work odd hours and may find it difficult to find time to make it to their polling location. IU has a responsibility to ensure that these employees are able to vote, especially when it boasts about programs like Political and Civic Engagement.
On a broader scale, we hope to see voting hours extended, or Election Day made a national holiday to increase voting accessibility to not only students, but all citizens trying to fulfill their civic duty. But for now, IU has a duty to its students, faculty, staff and community members to ensure that voter registration as well as voting on Election Day is made as easy and accessible as possible.