John Powers ’26 is a prospective Public Policy major who hails from Brooklyn, NY. Email John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.
The United States has a rampant voter suppression and turnout problem. Voter ID laws create an undue burden for people to vote, and the myth of voter fraud makes it harder to participate in elections. With the 2022 midterms on Tuesday, voter intimidation is rising. Recently, armed people in tactical gear have camped out near ballot drop-off boxes in Arizona in a brazen attempt to scare voters away.
In light of developments like these, people across this country have made certain changes to elections procedure. Perhaps that is what former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam attempted to do when he made Election Day a holiday in Virginia and expanded early voting.
It’s unclear if that is the reason why the College of William and Mary is giving everyone the day off on Tuesday, but regardless, this is the wrong course of action.
Without doubt, this is an unpopular opinion, and may cause confusion. You might ask, “how can you acknowledge the problems with voter turnout and voter suppression in America, but then advocate against a solution which purports to solve those very problems?”
Here lies a fundamental point: canceling classes and closing offices on Election Day at the College helps no one. It’s totally unnecessary and only takes a day for instruction away. The demographics of the College provide some evidence. 40% of students are out-of-state, including myself. Those of us who do not vote in Williamsburg would have to mail absentee ballots back home. So, for a substantial chunk of students, having Election Day off is not needed.
60% of students are from Virginia, and the vast majority of them are not from Williamsburg. It is likely true that for most of them, having Election Day off is not necessary for the reasons stated above as well.
But what about the students, and also the professors and other staff who happen to vote in Williamsburg? Surely, it makes sense to give them the day off, right?
In reality, it does not. Williamsburg is a quaint college town with a population of just about 16,000 people. Thus, it’s unlikely there will be very long lines at the polling places. In other words, Williamsburg’s two polling places won’t look like those of Los Angeles or Atlanta because of the population difference.
After all, even if lines were a concern, those at the College could vote up to 45 days before the election, without any reason.
Moreover, shuttering offices on Election Day is a disservice to students, who are prevented from accessing important services, such as accessibility.
All of this is not to say that educational institutions closing on Election Day is always wrong. In my home state of New York, public schools are closed for the understandable reason that they need to be used as polling places.
Closing on Election Day might also make sense for schools in urban areas, like the University of Chicago or Boston University. But not here.
In Virginia, it is easy to participate in our cherished democracy. To that end, having off on Tuesday is not a good idea.