Student advocates push others to vote despite COVID-19 obstacles

Students are looking toward mail-in voting as campus organizations continue to encourage civic engagement

Audrey Reeves, a freshman studying nursing, is voting for the first time in the upcoming election, something she said she has been looking forward to "ever since (she) was a kid."

Reeves is an out-of-state student from California who is relying on her ballot being sent through the mail. 

"I went online, and I re-registered to vote and changed my address to Taylor Place so that I would be mailed my ballot and can vote by mail," Reeves said.

In 2016, 11.2% of ASU Tempe students voted through the mail and 5.9% voted using absentee ballots, according to a study by the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement.

Due to COVID-19, there has been a push for voters to utilize different methods, such as mail-in voting, rather than come to the polls for the general election on Nov. 3. Though President Donald Trump has continuously assailed mail-in voting, many are still pushing for those alternative methods.

Maricopa County has been promoting residents to vote through its Be Ballot Ready campaign, with Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes tweeting on Sept. 23 that Maricopa County reached 2.5 million active registered voters. 

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs also urged people to get out to vote on Twitter.

Within ASU, Undergraduate Student Government Tempe is also working on campaigns to get students out to vote. 

Kajol Kapadia, the vice president of policy for USGT and senior studying economics, said the goal of USGT's initiatives is to encourage all students to cast a ballot. 

"We're just creating new initiatives like National Vote Early Day to promote the idea of early voting in this election, as well as trying to promote to students to mail in their ballots this year," Kapadia said. "It's all about getting those people who wouldn't typically turn out to vote to vote in this election."

Vote Everywhere ASU, a student organization on campus run by the the University's branch of the Andrew Goodman Foundation, is also trying to increase voter registration on campus by educating students about what is on the ballot.

Cyrus Commissariat, the team leader for Vote Everywhere, said he thinks voting by mail is the easiest option, even before COVID-19. 

"I was saying this before the pandemic, I think voting by mail is the easiest thing," said Commissariat, a senior triple majoring in political science, history and French. "What I would advise is to request (a mail-in option) as soon as possible, and then when you receive it, return it as soon as possible."

The mail-in voting option does not come without its own struggles this year. The U.S. Postal Service has been facing its own issues, throwing a wrench in some peoples' voting plans.

Problems with USPS, such as hours being cut and causing mail delays, have many lawmakers and voters worried this could affect the election, and their mail-in ballots would not be counted.  

Despite this, politicians and health officials are urging voters not only to vote by mail but to mail in their ballots early to avoid any issues before Election Day. 

Another option for voters is to request the mail-in option and then drop their ballot off at a polling place on Election Day, and despite the pandemic, there will be in-person voting locations at ASU. 

According to Kapadia, on-campus polling places with be open in the same locations as during the Arizona primary. In addition, at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex in Tempe, students can vote early at the Maroon Gym, starting Oct. 22. Downtown Phoenix does not have an ASU polling place, but students can vote at the Burton Barr Central Library off campus. 

READ MORE: Here's where you can vote on ASU's campuses

ASU polling places will be taking COVID-19 precautions outlined by Maricopa County such as physical distancing, providing voters with protective safety supplies and frequent cleaning and disinfecting. 

Despite the difficult nature of voting this election, Ben Branaman, the president of New Voters @ ASU and a freshman studying economics, expressed the importance of students voting.

Branaman said voting is not just limited to the presidential race, but in Arizona, residents will vote on propositions and other important local positions that will have a more immediate impact on their lives. 

"These are the people deciding whether to build a road or give more money to your teachers; these are the people who decide the county sheriff and their approaches to policing and police training," Branaman said. "All of that stuff is up for grabs."

Despite pandemic concerns, Reeves said she has "faith that my ballot will turn up where it needs to be and it will all work out.

"I believe that voting is the way that you make a positive change in the country. (My family is) very pro-voting and believe it's one of the most patriotic things you can do, no matter who you vote for."


Reach the Reporter at mcfisch4@asu.edu and follow @morgfisch on Twitter. 

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