A resolution to support an academic holiday on Election Day for 2020 and all even-numbered years after that passed during Tuesday night’s Central Student Government meeting with 30 in favor, five opposed and none abstaining. The resolution faced pushback from some representatives, who said the resolution only featured the views of students in CSG and wasn’t reflective of the student body in general.
While introducing the resolution, Engineering freshman Mario Galindez, a member of the Engineering Student Government, talked about how voter turnout has historically been much lower in student-populated areas as compared to more residential, non-student populations.
He also mentioned how long lines, especially in areas like the Michigan Union, were caused by the lack of student and faculty volunteers who could have aided the process. These individuals could have helped, however, if they had the day off.
“This University has a comprehensive history of civic engagement, but this dedication of citizenship is dependent on how the University prioritizes students’ ability to vote and participate in our democracy,” Galindez said. “As it stands, the University of Michigan discourages students from voting by prioritizing class over civic duty and dis-incentivizing students from working the polls.”
Engineering senior A.J. Ashman, co-author of the resolution advocating for the holiday, echoed this statement, adding it was unfair for the administration to force students to make difficult decisions about their civic engagement and education.
“Students are residents of Ann Arbor; they have the right to have their voices heard,” he said. “It’s borderline morally unjustifiable to have a system where students have to choose between going to class, getting their education and being involved in the decision of their country’s state of power.”
Rackham Rep. Andy Snow was skeptical of the idea, saying he talked to constituents and they were not very receptive to the idea because a holiday on Election Day would result in the loss of Fall Break, or at least a part of it.
“Have you actually asked students specifically if they prefer this to Fall Break?” he said to the body. “Because I actually went out … I did not get good responses. I was really hoping to see numbers (of students approving the holiday) this week.”
After hearing this, Ashman responded, saying it was very likely Fall Break wouldn’t occur anyway in the 2020 school year, because of a low number of school days.
“Fall Break’s pretty much dead anyway,” he explained. “In 2020, we have to get … re-accredited, and so you have to have 70 days per semester, and we currently only have 66 in our fall semester, so they were going to have to find four days anyway. The registrar being able to give us this one day off was a pretty nice thing on their part, we got something out of the deal. That is a compromise … we are pretty pleased to get Election Day off when we are supposed to get none of those days off.”
Snow still disagreed with the resolution, saying it was entirely possible for students to find a way to vote given the 13-hour time frame that the polls are open. He also emphasized that students should be more concerned about how Fall Break is being taken away.
“So unless you’re literally telling me that most students have class for 13 straight hours on a Tuesday, this is not fixing anything,” Snow said. “I’m really concerned about this dropping of Fall Break. That was something student government fought for specifically so we could study for midterms. As students, we should be doing something completely different and fighting to keep a level of study time before midterms in the fall, because that directly helps our academics. It’s your job, like any other citizen on Election Day, to find a one- or two-hour period and go vote.”
Art & Design senior Abby Zrike brought up a predicament many students faced on Election Day: long, back-to-back classes in a part of campus that was different from their voting precinct and lines that made voting almost impossible.
“I’m in the art school and our classes are like three hours long and I’m up on North so they’re all in a row,” she explained. “On voting day, I was in a situation where I only had an hour to vote … if I actually had to stand in (the longer) line, I wouldn’t have been able to vote. And if you miss three classes in the art school, you fail, so I appreciate you saying that we should just miss class but that doesn’t work for everyone. I almost wasn’t able to vote because of class, so I think this is really relevant.”