Loyola students are calling for the university to cancel classes on Election Day Nov. 3 to provide students and faculty with more opportunity to vote.
The petition, started by Loyola sophomore Cecilia Acevedo on change.org, states canceling classes on Election Day would better allow students and faculty to express their political beliefs and might promote higher voter turnout.
The petition has 251 signatures as of Oct. 20.
Historically, voter turnout among young people has been lower than other age groups. During the 2018 midterm elections, voters ages 18-29 had the lowest turnout of any age group at 35.6 percent participation, compared to 66.1 percent of voters ages 65 and up participating in the election, according to the US Census Bureau.
Going back to the 2014 midterm election, 18-29-year-olds’ voter participation was less than 20 percent while voters ages 65 and up were just below 60 percent in participation.
Acevedo, a 19-year-old psychology major, told The Phoenix she created the petition to make students aware Election Day currently isn’t an off day and students may still have classes.
“I know that Loyola tried to make it a point that you should use your voice to promote political activism and activism in general,” Acevedo said. “I just thought, maybe if more people were aware that it wasn’t a school holiday, or they didn’t realize that they may have classes that conflict with going to go vote … it would bring more people aware of the situation.”
Election Day isn’t a federal holiday in the United States. However, Illinois passed a law in June designating Election Day a state holiday. This led to public universities in Illinois, such as University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago State University, to cancel classes on Election Day. The law doesn’t mandate private universities, including Loyola, to close on the holiday.
DePaul University considered canceling classes at a faculty council meeting in September but the idea was voted down, The DePaulia, the school’s student newspaper, reported. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., student efforts at American University led the school to cancel classes on Election Day starting this year, according to a change.org petition from students at the school.
There are no university plans to cancel classes on Election Day, Loyola spokesperson Anna Shymanski Zach said in a statement emailed to The Phoenix. She said while the university appreciates the concern raised by students, students should have ample time to vote this year because of the opportunity to vote early or by mail.
“With so many voting options and methods available, all of which are outlined on our Loyola Votes website, we are confident that everyone in our community will have the opportunity to safely vote this year and make their voices heard,” Shymanski Zach said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a greater focus on mail-in voting with over two million Illinois voters requesting mail-in ballots this year. In addition, early voting opened for registered voters in Chicago on Oct. 14, as The Phoenix previously reported, providing options to voters outside of Election Day.
Acevedo said she’s gotten a positive reception from friends and classmates over the petition. She said one of her classmates didn’t even realize they might not get a chance to vote because of their heavy Election Day class schedule until Acevedo brought it up. Even just making classes optional on Election Day might encourage students to vote, Acevedo said.
“I feel like giving someone the option where, ‘Oh, I can watch my lectures tomorrow, or I can watch them later on in the day,’ and letting them go out and vote would be better than just not at all,” Acevedo said.
Loyola’s School of Law, meanwhile, scheduled its fall break to coincide with Election Day. This schedule change was made last year at the request of students, Dean Michael Kaufman said in an email to The Phoenix. Kaufman said students wanted to have the day to use their skills to assist in voting efforts.
“To their credit, our students wanted their break around Election Day so that they could participate in voting activities and use their developing legal skills to protect the right to vote, including through poll watching, voter protection, canvassing, advocacy on behalf of voting rights, and litigation preventing and remedying voter suppression,” Kaufman said in the email.