In the wake of a contentious presidential debate and amid an unprecedented election cycle, many voters, including college students, still have questions about the best way to vote in November.
Over the past several months, President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the United States Postal Service and mail-in voting systems without evidence of sustained fraud. In September, he encouraged voters to vote twice which left many questions for voters about mail-in-voting security and legality of voting both in person and by mail.
According to a Sept. 29 press release from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Michigan voters have already requested 2.5 million absentee ballots for the general election, marking a “350% increase compared to 36 days before the 2016 general election.”
The Ann Arbor City Clerk’s office set up a satellite office at the UMMA, open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, to assist students with voter registration. A drop box is located there as well. Students on North Campus can find a ballot drop box at Ann Arbor Fire Department Station 5.
Sophie Greenberg, vice president of education for nonpartisan voting initiative Turn Up Turnout and LSA sophomore, said voter registration work has changed at the University of Michigan to account for the risks of COVID-19. Greenberg said the UMMA has taken precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“You have to do a health screen before going in there, social distancing measures, sanitizing everything all the time, wearing masks,” Greenberg said. “It’s a very public health-informed initiative.”
Josephine Swaney, vice president of turnout for Turn Up Turnout and LSA sophomore, said the creation of these drop boxes was the organization’s biggest accomplishment.
“Drop boxes basically allow anyone to fill out their absentee ballot and then return their ballot without having to mail it in to the city clerk, and it doesn’t go through the postal system at all,” Swaney said.
Swaney said the unprecedented slow down of the USPS is one of the most common concerns of students and hopes these drop boxes will ameliorate apprehension about absentee voting.
“There’s a lot of concerns, especially among students, on whether their vote will be counted, whether they’re going to be able to turn in their ballot on time,” Swaney said. “It’s really easy to procrastinate, and that gets very, very dangerous when you’re getting down to it, and especially with postal delays. It’s really important to be able to make sure that everybody can feel like their vote is counted.”
In an email to The Daily, LSA senior Josiah Walker, president of Turn Up Turnout and vice president of LSA student government, emphasized the importance of voting on college campuses.
“College students represent one of the largest voting constituencies,” Walker wrote. “Since no one party or individual has the solution to every problem, it is imperative that everyone participates in the politics process.”
LSA junior Lily Antor said voters should not discount statewide and local elections.
“I feel as though there is so much on the line, particularly in statewide and local races,” Antor said. “I think people sometimes get too caught up on what is at the top of the ballot and forget to consider the importance of regional races and ballot proposals.”
Walker wrote while most of his friends have already voted, he knows a few people who are not planning to vote in the November election. He reminded others that voting can prevent vulnerable communities from harm.
“I know a few people who are opposed to voting, citing how it won’t create the structural change they desire,” Walker wrote. “And although I understand those concerns, I think it’s important to remember that voting shapes the stage for the advocacy that will create that structural change. Besides that, voting in local and state elections has a tremendous, sustained impact on vulnerable communities.”
At the same time, Antor said she hopes students remember that voting is not the only way to be civically engaged.
“Despite working in voter registration and engagement, which I really do love and strongly believe in, I also think it is important to bear in mind that voting is just one of many tools that can be used to enact political or social change,” Antor said.
Daily Staff Reporter Sarah Payne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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