Young people are heavily scrutinized by older generations for being lazy and not voting but perhaps college students are not voting because they cannot.
In Tennessee, registered voters are given time off work to vote, as long as they give advanced notice. It is illegal for employers to keep their employees from voting and it is illegal to penalize employees for missing work in order to vote, according to Tennessee Code 2-1-106.
Tennessee Tech also allows faculty members time off to vote, according to policy number 614.
However, there is no policy which states students can be excused from class to vote, which means whether it is an excused absence is up to students’ individual professors.
Voting can be especially difficult for students who are registered in another county and though absentee ballots are an option, many do not know how to cast these ballots or simply prefer to vote in person, which should be an available option.
But students’ schedules pose a roadblock when it comes to voting. Some students may only have to drive a short distance in order to vote, but many have to drive much longer distances, which could eat into class time considering the polls are only open for so many hours at a time.
Early voting takes place Monday through Friday during hours when students may have classes. On Saturdays, polls are either closed or only open for a limited number of hours. This year, Election Day falls on a Tuesday, which means those who have classes on Tuesday may not be able to make it to the polls on time.
Perhaps some students do have ample time to vote outside of class, but if the student body as a whole is expected to vote outside of class time or cast absentee ballots, why are faculty members not required to do the same?
Why are there policies in place which give privileges to faculty and not students?
How are students supposed to do their civic duty when they will be penalized for it academically?
When schools create policies which protect faculty’s right to vote and neglect students’ rights, they are adding to a nationwide issue and it is time we addressed it.