Last week, the NBA announced they wouldn't 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 midterm elections.”
Rather than solely advocating for civic engagement, the NBA is creating a makeshift holiday where national policy failed to create one — and the University should follow suit.
The no-game day isn’t the league’s first move in highlighting the importance of voting. In 2020, NBA arenas and facilities were used as polling and voting centers. In the past, however, there were several games held on Election Days. The move to keep the schedule clear better ensures that players and staff have a chance to get to the polls. Further, it removes at least one distraction for fans who can do the same.
Although voter turnout was historically high in 2020, in recent decades approximately 60 percent of the voting eligible population voted during presidential election years and around 40 percent voted during midterm elections.
There are a number of factors that impact voter turnout — from identity markers like age, race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status to voting laws that dictate voter registration, polling accessibility and terms for early voting.
For example, turnout among people aged 18 to 29 years old is lower than among those over 30. White voter turnout was estimated at 73 percent in 2020, higher in comparison to Black voters and Hispanic voters who were estimated at 66 percent and 53 percent, respectively. Additionally, the hours that polls are open, the amount of polls in a certain area or the accessibility via public transportation are all relevant to whether or not individuals can vote.
While there is little a sports league can do to make changes in these areas, rearranging the game schedule is something they can do to encourage players, staff and fans to understand the significance of Election Day.
It's also something the University can do.
Election Day was not designated as a “no-class” day off in 2020, the last presidential election year. This year, the day of midterm elections are also not a day off for students, faculty or staff.
The academic calendar is littered with days off, laid out sporadically throughout the year. In addition to federal holidays like Labor Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the University has the ability to create their own reasons to cancel class — such as Fall Break, Spring Break and the more recent (and necessary) Well-being Days.
Although Election Day is not a federal holiday — something President Biden said he would want to change — it’s clear that the University can make changes to the academic calendar for things that they deem important, like mental health.
The statistics around youth voting patterns demonstrates that there is a need to get them involved in civic engagement and voting activity. While staff and faculty may have reliable plans for voting that they’ve established over time, students, particularly those who are just becoming eligible for voting, need to be able to build it into their routine. A designated day off would let them make time among class or work obligations they face. Additionally, there are numerous buildings on campus that would be left empty and available as potential polling locations.
Since the University prides itself in preparing students for the real world and the job market, they should consider preparing students for their role as citizens as well. They should ensure students take the necessary steps for success in their careers, but also demonstrate that civic engagement is a priority.
Though a day off doesn’t directly correlate to people making it to the polls, and while the NBA or University don’t impact every eligible voter in America, they are institutions that can set a precedent in which our society doesn’t just talk about the importance of voting, but structures it into our lives.
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