Sept. 4, 2020 | By Hank Bedingfield | Illustration by Jubilee Hernandez

While the campus will be mostly empty on Election Day in November, with classes almost entirely remote, one student wants classes canceled — and he isn’t the first to speak up.

“COVID-19 has required colleges to cancel so many classes already with such detrimental effects,” Bennett Okun ’23 wrote in an opinion piece this week for The Catalyst. “On Election Day, let’s cancel classes to achieve a positive one.”

For Okun, the gravity of this year’s election, coupled with the unique challenges of COVID-19, demand dramatic political action, and who better to take that action than college students? He predicts this year’s unique voting issue will be staffing the polls.

Poll workers, a job for which over half of the volunteers are over the age of 61, according to a Pew Research Center Poll, will be discouraged more than ever to risk their health in the name of democracy.

The solution, according to Okun: a dedicated influx of college students. “There are 20 million college students in the U.S. who would make great poll workers and this year more than ever many of them would be excited to be a part of this historic period,” he said. “A student can be a poll worker in the state in which they are registered, regardless of their college classes being held on campus or if they are taking courses online. The key is not having college that day.”

It’s an idea that is gaining traction on the CC campus.

“There is almost always a poll worker shortage, and having the day off would encourage students to sign up for the job,” said CC Democrats co-chair Rachel Hutchins ’22. “It’s extremely important to make voting as easy as possible for voters.”

This idea has already been adopted by institutions like Harvard and Rutgers, with similar movements swelling in colleges and universities nationwide.

“I’m in favor of the idea,” said Nate Hochman ’21, founder and editor-in-chief of CC’s Athwart Magazine — a young publication which prides itself on being an outlet for typically more conservative voices on campus. “I think high participation in elections is a sign of a healthy democracy, and I think institutions like CC doing what they can, within reason, to make it easier for people to participate is generally a good thing.”

This budding push comes in the context of what is generally agreed to be one of the most important election cycles in the history of the American experiment. Apart from a polarized climate driving many to the camps of Biden or Trump, Colorado faces its own severe reckoning. Democrat John Hickenlooper, former Colorado governor who prides himself on bipartisanship and practical progressivism, hopes to unseat Cory Gardner, the polarizing Republican incumbent.

The drive of democracy is pushing harder than ever and some CC students want to meet that force. They believe cancelling class on Election Day is one practical way to enable that.

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