Excuse me — I’d like to vote

Voting, our highest civic duty, is not a legitimate reason to miss class, according to U policy.

Mike Munzenrider

Voting is extremely simple in Minnesota, a state with the highest turnout rates in the nation. So youâÄôd think the University of Minnesota âÄî with one of the largest and most politically-active campuses in the nation âÄî would want to reflect the spirit of MinnesotaâÄôs civic activism in policy. But it doesnâÄôt. University policy states that voting is no reason to be excused from class.
Making it out to vote today will be a juggling act for any busy student. Between school and work schedules, homework and reading, squeezing a bit of extra time out of the day is sometimes easier said than done.
As weâÄôve seen in the past âÄî namely, the 2008 Al Franken v. Norm Coleman recount âÄî elections can be decided by hundreds of votes. Now, more than ever, the vote you cast means something, which is why itâÄôs unfortunate the UniversityâÄôs administration is making it all that harder for you to go to the polls today.
During the 2008 elections, when youth voter turnout was expected at all-time highs âÄî and achieved all-time highs in Minnesota âÄî the University stood firm to its policy that the highest act of patriotism, voting, does not constitute a legitimate absence from class. As stated by the University Policy on Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences, there is a short list of absences for which students wonâÄôt be penalized âÄî legitimate absences. But, it states, âÄúSuch circumstances do not include voting in local, state, or national elections.âÄù
Spokesman for the University, Dan Wolter, did not return my request for comment on this column. But in 2008, he said he felt the 13 hours polls are open is more than enough time for students to cast ballots.
âÄúYou will be hard-pressed to find a faculty who doesnâÄôt think itâÄôs extremely important for their student to voteâÄù he told The Minnesota Daily. (Sure, but what if there is one?) âÄúThe University does not want to provide a blank check for students to miss class.âÄù (Actually, weâÄôre the ones writing checks to the University).
Today, the UniversityâÄôs stance is essentially the same. Robert McMaster, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, said succinctly via e-mail: âÄúThe basic justification for this policy is that all voters (including students) have 13 hours to vote.âÄù
Thirteen hours is indeed a long time and, on its face, it seems like you should be able to make it to the polls today without much trouble.
But the state of Minnesota does not see it that way. According to Minnesota Statute 204C.04, âÄúEvery employee who is eligible to vote in an election has the right to be absent from work for the time necessary to appear at the employeeâÄôs polling place, cast a ballot and return to work on the day of that election, without penalty or deduction from salary or wages because of the absence.âÄù
Minnesota deems it so important for its citizens to vote that it legislated that employees may vote on the clock. This is a far cry from the situation University students face. While we pay the University for the privilege to attend classes, it will not facilitate our right to vote.
That the University does not wish to give students carte blanche to skip class is understandable. It nevertheless strikes me as cynical that an institution that thinks itâÄôs âÄúextremely importantâÄù for their students to vote would also expect unmitigated abuse if the Election Day absence policy was more lenient.
Go to the polls and try to go to class today. A strong showing of maturity and civic-mindedness might be enough to one day get a more sensible University policy regarding voting day absences in place. We show our trust in the University through tuition. That trust should be reciprocated.