In light of the highest predicted voter turnout in decades,
University students and staff alike are rearranging their schedules
to fit in time to vote. Projections for voter turnouts across the
country are expected to be higher than during the last two
presidential elections, according to a poll released yesterday by
Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan Washington-based group.
But whereas the University has encouraged staff supervisors to
accomodate University employees who need to get to the polls,
students will have to fit voting in between classes or consult
their professors on an individual basis if they want to skip class
to go vote.
As is customary before important elections, University President
Mary Sue Coleman sent out an e-mail to the campus community on
Thursday, urging voter participation and reiterating the importance
of voting in tomorrow’s decision.
“Local election clerks are suggesting that voters attempt
to get to the polls as early as possible to avoid expected long
lines at the end of the day,” Coleman’s e-mail said.
Coleman also addressed University employees, urging supervisors to
“encourage and make it possible for all employees to exercise
(their right to vote.)”
While many students have already voted by absentee ballot, many
others are registered in Ann Arbor, and on Tuesday they must find
spare hours to stand in lines and give their opinions.
Art and Design senior Michelle Panars said one of her professors
canceled classes to allow students more time to vote.
“Professors should definitely give students excused absences
to vote if they have no other time to do it,” Panars
Anthropology Prof. Beverly Strassman sympathized with students
who have to schedule time to vote. “I am working in the
election, and I know there are certain times when the polls will be
crowded. While this will only affect a few students who might have
a busy day on Tuesday, I would allow excused absences for
voting,” she said.
Strassman also pointed out that the University administration
has sent out past e-mails encouraging professors to grant students
excused absences for other occasions, such as religious holidays.
“I was surprised that a similar e-mail did not go out
persuading professors to give excused absences for voting. I would
have thought they might be treated in a parallel way,” she
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said the administration
can’t make the decision of whether professors should give
excused absences to allow students more time to vote. “That
is an academic decision, not administrative, and is up to the
individual professors,” she said.
According to Peterson, Coleman’s letter specifically
addressed University employees because, although most employees
will have time to vote before or after work, “many people
that work at the University live in other towns and commute to Ann
Arbor, and their schedules may be very tight, especially if they
have children. They may need a little flexibility in order to be
able to vote. President Coleman was letting supervisors know that
they need to be aware of their employees’ needs.”
Peterson added that students should have plenty of time to vote,
as the polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. “There are lots
of opportunities for students to get out and vote, and I really
hope they do,” she said.
Many students agree, saying that voting is a high priority.
“It is really important to vote, especially in this election.
I am going to wake up early to make sure I have time to do
it.” LSA sophomore Jessicca Jarl said.
Her friend Ann Hsueh, a Rackham student, said, “There is a
polling place in Markley (Residence Hall), which is my residence,
so it really won’t be that hard to vote.” She added
that professors should not excuse students from class to vote,
saying that too many students would abuse the privilege.
“Individuals should make time for it, even if they have to
wake up early like they are waiting for concert tickets.”
LSA junior Boni Wen said since she lives nearby in Ann Arbor,
she plans to go home to vote and does not expect to have trouble
finding time to do so.
Hsueh offered similar remarks, saying, “The city tries to
cater to students. They have polling places like the (Michigan)
Union, which is a central location. With all the accessibility, it
shouldn’t be that hard to vote.”
Five of Ann Arbor’s polling places are located on the
University’s campus, with polls at the Union and in Bursley,
South Quad, East Quad and Markley residence halls.