Prioritizing voting over class

For many students at the University of San Diego, this election season marks the first time they are able to vote in a presidential election.

Historically, the college-aged demographic seems to be one of the least represented at the polls. Given the intense political climate, many students are passionate about casting their vote for one candidate or another. However, many of those students have overloaded schedules, so finding time to vote may be especially difficult. This begs the question: is voting a valid excuse to miss class on election day?

Although there are many options for students who wish to vote but can’t find time in their schedule to do so, like mail-in ballots, many first time voters may want the experience of going to a physical polling place. Unfortunately, mail-in ballots don’t include the coveted “I voted” sticker which is sure to be the hottest accessory come Nov. 8.

Luckily, scheduling won’t be an issue for many students as Election Day falls on a Tuesday, meaning all students will have the two-hour dead hours period to get to the polls. However, students who have commitments during dead hours will not be able to take advantage of this time and may have to prioritize casting their vote over attending class.

Polling places can notoriously take hours because of long lines. Because polls are so unpredictable, going between classes or during dead hours can be tricky. If the polls are busy, even if you allot plenty of time, you can still be late to class or work.

Teresa Elston, a sociology professor at USD, noted that while missing class isn’t ideal, professors should be understanding of unique circumstances.

“I’d probably be ok with [students missing class to vote,]” Elston said. “Obviously I’d prefer they take care of it another time, like through mail-in ballot, but if this is their first time voting and they’re excited to go to the polls, I’d allow it.”

Of course, if you can vote in your spare time, that is a better option. However, issuing a vote is so important that sometimes skipping class is justified.

To circumvent this problem in many countries, election day is held on the weekend, allowing as many people as possible the opportunity to vote. These countries include Australia, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, and Brazil. In recent years, the only countries beside America to hold their elections on a Tuesday were Israel and Denmark.

The tradition of the U.S.  voting on a Tuesday dates back to 1845, when people often had to travel long distances to get to a polling place. These journeys took a long time, and there was often more than a day of travel involved. To counterbalance this, the government made election day on a Tuesday so religious people wouldn’t be forced to travel on Sunday, their day of rest.

Now that polls are more accessible, perhaps it’s time to reconsider Tuesday as election day and, instead, opt for something more convenient. In the meantime, since election day only comes around once every four years, missing class or work to cast your vote is merited.

By Dani DeVries, Opinion Editor