It’s time for Election Day to be a college holiday
Right now, across the country, Americans are standing for hours in lengthy queues at their voting sites and mailing in their ballots to participate in this year’s election. More than 69.5 million voters have already cast their votes, an early voting turnout unrivaled in American electoral history. Students have made it clear that democratic participation is a priority: several student groups, including MiddVote and Middlebury Does Democracy, have led the way in motivating Middlebury students to engage in local politics and in national elections. The college, too, can play its part in removing barriers to participation by making Election Day a holiday for its students, faculty and staff.
Vermont has taken nearly every step possible to make sure voting is accessible. Residents enjoy same-day registration, lack of photo ID requirements, full suffrage for felons and, this year, automatic distribution of mail-in ballots. Now it’s time for Middlebury to show the same commitment. While many students have already mailed in their out-of-state ballots, declaring a college holiday would help ensure that every member of the community can cast a vote.
Given the short timeframe, it may be implausible to make Nov. 3 a holiday for Middlebury this year. However, faculty members who hold some power in this matter can elect to cancel class on Tuesday to encourage students to vote. Anyone with scheduling power has the responsibility to afford those beholden to them the opportunity to vote on Election Day.
Staff who have full-day shifts on Election Day are not afforded the opportunity to exercise their right to vote in person. Although unintentional, typical busy Tuesday work schedules present a barrier to democratic participation. Even if supervisors are able to rearrange the schedule for their staff — allowing some to vote on Election Day — having to request time off from work may be discouraging to some potential voters. The college should actively encourage staff to vote and intentionally introduce flexibility in work schedules on the day of the election.
In future cycles, as the challenges of the pandemic wane and many of us are required to return the polls, having the day off will be more important than ever. As voter suppression runs rampant across the United States, the college must use its influence to not only underscore the importance of voting but also to empower all members of the Middlebury community to participate in the election. Middlebury’s goal should be to increase voter turnout with every election cycle.
This year’s elections — from the top of the ballot to the bottom — feel like they matter more than those in years past. They matter to the students mailing their ballot back to their home state, to the students who cannot vote in this country and to all who will be taking time to visit their local polling place. Voting is a right, and barriers to exercising that right should be removed in any form they take.
If you have not already voted, you can vote in person on Nov. 3 at the Middlebury Recreation Center at 154 Creek Rd. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
We will be taking a hiatus from publishing next week to give our members who intend to vote additional scheduling flexibility and to alleviate pressure during a particularly stressful time.
This editorial represents the opinions of the Middlebury Campus’s editorial board.