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University Senate removes voting barriers for students

The Senate urged faculty to support civic engagement during the 2020 presidential election

usg senate meeting

Breonn Peoples, ASU senior and USGT Senate president, discusses the upcoming election at the Memorial Union on ASU's Tempe campus on Tuesday, January 30, 2018.

The University Senate showed their support for student civic engagement in one of its last meetings of the semester by passing a motion on April 27 that would remove barriers for students trying to vote for the 2020 presidential election.

Senate Motion 2020-74 aims to diminish the common barriers students face during the general election, which includes classes and assignments scheduled while students are stuck in long polling lines on Election Day. 

"Faculty do not wish to suppress any citizen’s participation in voting," the resolution states. "Nor do they wish to create barriers to students’ exercising their civic right and responsibility to vote."

Student governments are planning to get students registered and engaged with the election season, according to the motion. Efforts from the Undergraduate Student Governments to remove voting barriers and increase student turnout began as early as October 2019.

USG Tempe passed two resolutions in Fall 2019 with the goal to remove voting barriers for students. The campus has also hosted multiple events to register and educate students on voting for the 2020 election with hopes to improve civic engagement. 

USGT's Senate Resolution 7 asked to prevent exams from being scheduled on election day and allow students to miss class to vote without receiving punishment, whereas Senate Resolution 8 advocated for a vote center on campus.

USG Downtown passed Senate Resolution 2 in February 2020 supporting the action to prevent exams from being scheduled, but also asked ASU to excuse classes to recognize Election Day as a University holiday.

However, Johannah Uriri-Glover, SM 2020-74's sponsor, said a University holiday was not feasible. 

"We looked into it," said Uriri-Glover, a clinical professor at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. "But there's no way that we could plan for anything like that." 

The motion notes other methods to increase engagement that USGs will provide for students during the election. Students can expect to see instructions and deadlines for registration, information about polling locations on campus and activities to increase student voter turn out. 

READ MORE: USG Tempe still working to encourage voting, implement policies

The motion urged all faculty to support student civic engagement during the voting period, although Uriri-Glover said the resolution does not intend to order what faculty should do in regard to their classes. 

"We want faculty to maintain that academic freedom and decide what to do in these cases," Uriri-Glover said. 

The resolution asks that professors consider the national election when creating due dates for classwork, make-up assignments and tests, as well as excusing absences for students to vote. 

Senate President and English professor Shirley Rose said the Senate would work to embed the presidential election calendar into the University calendar for faculty to follow with the motion. 

"If we can't get it officially added to the calendar, certainly the Senate can make an effort to communicate with faculty ourselves," Rose said.

The motion will be made known by students, faculty and staff in time for Election Day on Nov. 3.

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