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The Pandemic Makes It More Challenging For Students To Vote

Monday 2nd November 2020

The 2020 US presidential election is close, but sadly US college students are dealing with a fall semester unlike any other, especially those studying abroad in Europe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone's lives upside down, and students are no exception. Also, with the recent Black Lives Matter movement, they feel it's the moment to step into a new activism era, but being locked up in their houses doesn't help them much.

The Knight Foundation and College Pulse released a report that states that most students plan to vote in the upcoming elections because they feel it's the moment to let their voices heard. For this survey, the organizations interviewed 4000 full-time college students, and 71% of them revealed they'll definitely vote this year.

What does it mean if so many students show up to vote?

Evette Alexander, director of learning and impact at the Knight Foundation, states that if 71% of the 10 million college students vote, they'll significantly impact the election.

During the survey, undergrads also had to answer who they would vote for, if they'd have to vote the day of the interview, and 70% of them said they'd pick former Vice President Biden, while 18% preferred President Donald Trump.

Addressing the COVID-19 issue was the main interest among the surveyed students, with 33% identifying it as a vital issue. Race relations and climate change were the second and third most prominent concerns of undergrads.
Students also consider essential for the future president to push for racial justice in America.

They need to make their voices heard in political decisions and want future leadership to support everyone's human rights and human decency. Healthcare is another subject they find important because by evaluating the impact the COVID-19 had on people, they discovered the Black community and Native American community are experiencing systematic oppression.

Students require for the next leadership to build a universal health plan; all people can access. Studying abroad in Europe offers access to a different healthcare system and students find it more effective, so they expect the next USA president to provide them with the same healthcare benefits.

The 2020 US presidential election is close, but sadly US college students are dealing with a fall semester unlike any other, especially those studying abroad in Europe.
Image from unsplash.com

Closed campuses make it more difficult for students to vote

But, as stated at the beginning of the article, most students are isolated at home with the campuses closed, so they have no idea how they can express their vote.

In a world with no COVID-19, college campuses would be buzzing with efforts to facilitate voting, but 2020 is no ordinary year because the virus spread has forced educational institutions to shut down their campuses and undergraduates feel they're facing voter suppression.

In addition to accommodating to online classes, they also need to figure out how they can vote, especially if they aren't on USA soil. Some registered to vote from their campuses, while others preferred mail vote because it allows them to maintain social distancing. But for many, this is the first time they vote and the process isn't easy.

They need support to figure out what steps they must follow because the registration and voter requirements are different in each state. To help young people determine what steps they must follow, many student organizations started programs to increase voter engagement.

Even without a global pandemic shutting down colleges, voting as a student is challenging. After student activists managed to get the voting age lowered to 18 in 1971, 50% of the eligible voters took part in 1972. Then the number of young voters dropped because students are facing confusing laws and residency requirements. However, after Trump's victory, student voting has also spiked with 40% of eligible undergraduates voting in the 2018 midterm elections.

NextGen America released a poll that revealed over 50% of voters under 35 feel they don't have the resources to vote by mail. If living on campus made it easier for students to access information, the pandemic is wreaking havoc on the process and preventing many students from casting their ballot. For example, in some states, college students need to apply for a ballot with a paper request form if they don't have an in-state driver's license.

This can be difficult when studying abroad because not all of them have a printer, and they cannot visit their friends to ask them to print the form for them. Also, there is the problem of postal service delays, so they should've sent the form a couple of months ago to make sure they're successfully registered.

For people studying overseas, the process is complicated. Most of those who traveled to Europe for the fall semester decided to opt for private rental accommodation to stay away from campuses and prevent virus spread, so they are isolated far away from home. Private accommodation offers plenty of options for students in the area. But even if they figured out how to protect themselves from catching the virus, they still have to determine how they can express their vote.

Most people studying abroad are concerned about not meeting deadlines. For young people away from home, they are being represented by elected officials on the campus, and they can provide them with information on the best way to make their voices heard.

College students are also vulnerable to ballot problems because, in the 2020 primaries, over 550,000 ballots have been rejected, with young voters being more likely to make mistakes that lead to rejected ballots.

It's crucial for parents to guide their children on how to correctly vote to ensure they influence the outcome of the elections. Parents are advised to take their children with them when they vote to familiarize them with the process, even if they don't have the legal age for the vote. This way, they become integrated with the process and feel encouraged to research the steps they must follow when they turn 18.

College undergraduates are so powerful that they can impact the results, but only if they pay attention to the process's requirements.

Many college student voters are already firmly committed to an option and unlikely to change their vote with election days close by. There isn't enough time for any of the candidates to change their minds and turn the vote in their favor.








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