As anyone who has lived in Kentucky at all during the past year knows, election time is fast approaching, although, oddly enough, it takes a little digging to find out what day that actually is--it’s Nov. 6 for the uninformed.
Those overly patriotic and often boring or poorly-designed yard signs, with the distinct exception of Morgan Eaves’s cursive branding, litter the street side in every town, often crowding together like the fast food and gas station brand signs at every interstate exit, as if passersby can discern who to vote for in what is essentially a wall of competing text from their cars.
It’s common knowledge at this point that young people don’t turn out to vote as much as older folks. Well, gee, I wonder why? Maybe because we often can’t get time off without losing hours and therefore money? Or missing a class and possibly an important quiz or exam, as it’s toward the end of the semester? Or not getting enough sleep because you have to get up early to head to the polls before class or work, which research shows is bad for students a la the WKU policy for later class start times? Or, like me, you commute nearly an hour to class and have to get up even earlier than you already do to doorbust the polling place in your hometown so you can make it to your morning class and subsequent twelve hour day on campus?
The barrier of competing obligations, especially for young people who generally haven’t built up the financial or time security to take time off, makes turning election days standardized bank holidays seem like an extremely obvious solution that apparently no one has bothered to sign off on yet. However, perhaps there’s a reason we don’t get that guaranteed time off; politicians don’t want us to vote. Lack of voter turnout is a great way to ensure inferior candidates, especially those who have been in office for decades, stay in office, because the people that will vote for them are usually the majority of people who actually go vote, and they tend to be older people who have an easier time getting to the polls.
In other words, not setting aside time off for voters on election days is a form of often-ageist voter suppression. It is highly suspect that all voters don’t have universal guaranteed time off to vote like the protections set aside for things like jury duty. If the government won’t give us that protection, it is up to institutions like Eastern Kentucky University to provide it themselves. We must demand the time to vote, as it is our civic duty to do so just as it is our civic duty to sit on a jury or pay our taxes.