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Carnegie Mellon U. Student Group Rallies For Election Day Off

This story was written by Kelly Thomas, The Pitt News

A small group of Carnegie Mellon University students have gone voting, and theyd like the rest of Pittsburgh to follow them.

The students, a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, started Gone Voting to get businesses to give employees time off to vote on Election Day.

The organization works together without any elected leaders, group member Sarah Kusuma said.

Kusuma, a junior design major, said that she drew inspiration for the project from a trip to Cambodia. Cambodian stores closed on their election day, she said, and the poll lines were long throughout the day.

Almost all the people there took time to vote, Kusuma said. Were not given time off to celebrate this big event thats supposed to impact our future.

Kusuma likened Election Day to a holiday and said she doesnt understand why businesses are closed on holidays like Columbus Day when they arent for Election Day.

Despite the groups efforts, however, she said the project hasnt been well received by businesses in Pittsburgh. The group spoke to many businesses, especially small, privately owned ones, but none of them agreed to participate.

A few employees from several companies such as McDonalds and UPMC showed interest in the program, but Gone Voting was unable to get any managers involved.

Especially with the economy now, people are really worried about taking time off to vote, Kusuma said.

University of Pittsburgh freshman Caitlin Timoney agreed that work shouldnt get in the way of voting.

I think that its everybodys right to vote, and no one should have the power to stop that, she said.

Many states, such as Alaska, Colorado and Hawaii, guarantee employees time off to vote, but thats usually dependent on whether the polls are not open for two hours before or after work. Pennsylvania law does not guarantee voting leave, according to a guide provided by the Gone Voting group.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, voters who are in line when the polls close are guaranteed the opportunity to vote.

Pittsburgh freshman Jason Gibson said he thought that most people should have enough time outside of work to make it to the polls. Pennsylvania polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

They should have time off if theyre working the entire time the polls are open, he said.

At this stage in the project, Kusuma said its more important for them to raise awareness about the importance of voting than getting businesses to allow their employees time off from work.

Were trying to show people the importance of voting rather than giving people time off to vote, she said. Anything we vote on impacts the rest of the world, directly or indirectly.

Kusuma said that because the U.S. is so involved in world politics, its especially important that citizens get out and vote.

A petition, as well as printable door hangers, can be found on the Web site, Kusuma said about 30 people had signed the petition so far.

The organization also has a Facebook group focused on getting people to pledge to vote on Nov. 4.

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