Students slacking on Election Day? Give them the day off!
A proposal currently floating around the University of Minnesota Senate "would allow voting in state and federal elections as an acceptable excused absence" from class, arguing that college students undying dedication to attending classes in early November is preventing them from casting a ballot. This amendment to the Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences policy is still in its early stages, and would have to go through more circles of Hell (in the form of obscure student government leadership committees) than Dante before coming into effect.
But, according to supporters of this measure, the amendment is only the first step: "...[E]ventually, we want to see it as an official University holiday for students," said Mitch Menigo, a member of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), which is very active on campus for progressive causes. "We got a lot of responses from students saying that they didn't have enough time to vote," Menigo goes on to say. "We want to make sure every voice is heard and everyone has an opportunity to vote."
I don't know who MPIRG, or anyone else, is fooling with this, but there's a considerable amount of them out there (including political science department Chair Raymond Duvall, who is quoted in the article). Class is not what's stopping college students from voting. Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., so any student who is truly invested in voting would find a few minutes in that 13-hour window to do so. Sure, they may have to wake up a little earlier, show up to happy hour later, or walk a few blocks out of their way to do it, but these are efforts, or"sacrifices," worth making to ensure their "voice was heard."
Also, how would students prove that they used their "excused absence" to vote? MPIRG would be the first organization crying out against voting rights and anonymous ballot infringement by professors simply wanting proof to excuse the absence. It'd be interesting to run an experiment with a control group versus a group that has the "excused absence" - or even the entire day off, as is coming - and see just how different the voting rates are among the student body. I'm sure it'd be a little higher for the second group, but not enough to validate the belief that droves of students aren't voting is because they're stuck in lecture. Many of the same students who don't care enough to make time now would just use it as an excuse to sleep in on Tuesday morning after Margarita Monday.
There's a couple of parallels to this amendment and the pushback to voter ID laws, which is another hot topic here in Minnesota. Organizations like MPIRG are manufacturing problems just so they can rally what they believe are their bases - students for "excused absences," and minorities in the case of voter IDs - and claim they're fighting for their "voice." They're just looking for new ways to appeal to their coalitions for fear of losing them since their policies are proving to hurt these groups of people, ultimately muffling their voices behind faux controversies.