U. Minnesota: Don't Skip Class To Vote

This story was written by Keith Hovis, Minnesota Daily


AUniversity of Minnesota policy may make it harder for students to vote on Election Day.

Voting in local, state or national elections is not considered an acceptable reason to miss class, according to the university policy on Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences.

It seems like given the huge projected turnout, especially in this election, it might be a slightly problematic policy, Jessica Nowlin , co-president of the Law School Democrat , said. People have no idea when they go to the polls how long it will take.

Voter registration in the state is at an all-time high this year.

While Nowlin said she understands that the university may not want students to take advantage of the chance to miss class, not leaving room for any allowances could be challenging.

The school should be fairly generous that day, Nowlin said.

You will be hard pressed to find a faculty who doesnt think its extremely important for their student to vote, University spokesman Dan Wolter said, adding that at the same time the university does not want to provide a blank check for students to miss class.

Wolter said he found it hard to believe that with polling places open for 13 hours on Election Day, students would be unable to find some time during the day to vote. But Wolter said he encourages students with legitimate excuses to consult with instructors, as they have the final say about whether they want to uphold the no-excuse policy.

University history Professor Helena Pohlandt-McCormick said she would have to make the decision on a case-by-case basis as to whether a student could miss class.

While Pohlandt-McCormick said she would first ask students why there is no other time they could vote, she also sees classes, work and family obligations as a valid excuse.

Political science lecturer Katia Mohammad-Zadeh said she does not feel voting is an excuse to miss class. If I gotta be there, you gotta be there, Mohammad-Zadeh said.

While Mohammad-Zadeh decided to cancel her night class on Nov. 4 so the students can complete their assignment to watch the election coverage, she also decided to schedule an exam on that day for another class.

According to Minnesota Statute 204C.03 , the only requirement for state colleges and universities on Election Day is to not schedule any events from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Classes are not defined as events.

Hamline University law Professor Ed Butterfoss said he found it interesting that Minnesota law requires state college and universities to provide all necessary voter registration forms, but there is no statute to actually ensure that a student will get to vote.

Butterfoss said with statutes currently in place ensuring that workers are able to have time in the morning to vote, it seems like students should be extended the same right.

Bert Black, a spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, said he felt the best answer for a student who may have trouble finding time to vote, is to vote absentee.

Black acknowledged that absentee voting is not a complete answer, as students who live and work in the precinct where they are registered to vote do not meet the qualifications to use an absentee ballot.

According to absentee ballot rules , a person must be outside of their precinct on Election Day to vote absentee.

It is certainly an area where no-excuse absentee voting would be an answer, Black said.

For university pre-design sophomore Kristy Liebaert, the policy seems unnecessary. Especially with how many people want to be involved this year, young people will have a big impact, Liebaert said.

While Liebaert believes she will have time to vote on Nov. 4, she said if she was faced with the choice between class and voting, she wouldnt hesitate with her decision.

I would skip class, Liebaert said. Theres one presidential election every four years; why wouldnt you skip?
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