Last week, the NBA announced it would not schedule any games on Nov. 8 in observance of Election Day. In a tweet, the league said the decision was based on “their focus on promoting nonpartisan civic engagement and encouraging fans to make a plan to vote during the midterm elections.”
Instead of advocating for civic engagement alone, the NBA is creating an impromptu celebration where national politics failed to create one — and the University should follow suit.
The no-game day isn’t the league’s first step to emphasize the importance of voting. In 2020, NBA arenas and facilities were used as polling and voting centers. However, in the past, there have been some games that have been held on election days. The move to better keep the schedule clear ensures players and staff have a chance to go to the polls. Further, it removes at least one distraction for fans who might do the same.
Although voter turnout was historically high in 2020, in recent decades about 60 percent of the eligible voting population voted during presidential election years and about 40 percent voted during midterm elections.
There are a number of factors that affect voter turnout – from markers of identity such as age, race/ethnicity, or socioeconomic status to voting laws that dictate voter registration, access to polling stations, and early voting conditions.
For example, participation among people aged 18 to 29 is lower than among those over 30. White voter turnout was estimated at 73 percent in 2020, higher than black voters and Hispanic voters, which were estimated at 66 percent and 53 percent, respectively. Additionally, the hours polling stations are open, the amount of voting in a given area, or access via public transport are all important to whether or not individuals can vote.
While a sports league can do little to make changes in these areas, rearranging the game schedule is something they can do to encourage players, staff and fans to understand the importance of Election Day.
It is also something the University can do.
Election Day was not designated as a “no class” holiday in 2020, the last presidential election year. This year too, midterm election day is not a day off for students, faculty or staff.
The academic calendar is filled with days off, set sporadically throughout the year. In addition to federal holidays such as Labor Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the University has the ability to create its own reasons to cancel class – such as Fall Break, Spring Break, and more recent (and necessary) Wellness Days.
Although Election Day is not a federal holiday — something President Biden said he would like to change — it’s clear the University can make changes to the academic calendar for things they deem important, such as mental health.
Statistics about youth voting patterns show that there is a need to involve them in civic engagement and voting activity. While staff and faculty may have reliable voting plans that they have developed over time, students, especially those who are just becoming legal to vote, should be able to build it into their routine. A designated day off would allow them to find time between class assignments or the work they are facing. In addition, there are many buildings on campus that would be left vacant and available as potential polling places.
Since the University prides itself on preparing students for the real world and the job market, they should also consider preparing students for their role as citizens. They must ensure that students take the necessary steps to succeed in their careers, but also demonstrate that civic engagement is a priority.
Although a day off is not directly related to people going to the polls, and while the NBA or the University do not affect every eligible voter in America, they are institutions that can set a precedent in which our society does not speak alone. about the importance of voting, but structures it in our lives.
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