The Collegian
Monday, October 18, 2021

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Students vote early, by mail

Some University of Richmond students are voting in the November election early and in person; others have sent absentee ballots to their home states. The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement is providing services to assist students to get to the polls or mail in their ballots.

Sophomore Jasmin Portillo, who is from Richmond, decided to vote early to avoid voting on Election Day, she said.

“Since [Election Day] falls, like, on a weekday, I wasn't sure if I was going to have time to [vote]," Portillo said. "It's a pretty busy day in terms of schedule. I have a lot of classes.”

Although Portillo had never voted early before, the process was less stressful for her than regular voting and she will likely vote early again, she said. The registration process was no different, she said. Portillo showed up on a Saturday morning at her polling station and, although the line was long, she was there approximately 30 minutes, she said.

Senior Emily Turkington, who is from Durham, North Carolina, was unable to go home to vote because of COVID-19, she said. Turkington filled out and sent in her absentee ballot at the end of September, she said. 

“I decided to early vote because it was important to me to vote in North Carolina since it's a swing state,” Turkington said. “And we tend to go red, but I’m supporting Joe Biden, so I wanted to make sure my vote counted there and could help him as much as possible.”

Once Turkington received her absentee ballot, she filled it out and had her roommate sign off as a witness before dropping it off at the post office. Turkington was able to check online to see when her ballot was received and processed, she said.

Many of Turkington's friends are also voting early either by mail or in person, she said. And with COVID-19, it is important to have safe options for voting, she said. Although she acknowledged resources provided by the school such as shuttles to take students to and from early voting, Turkington said she wished UR did more to make it easier for students to apply for absentee ballots. 

The CCE sponsored shuttles this year to transport students to the Richmond City polling place for early voting. The shuttles, which left from Tyler Haynes Commons, ran from Sept. 18 to Oct. 31 every Friday and Saturday except for Oct. 17, according to the CCE's Voting Guide webpage.

Although a photo ID is no longer required to vote in Virginia, a UR student ID was needed to board the shuttle and could be used as an acceptable form of identification at the polls, according to the CCE’s webpage. 

Students did not need to register to use the early voting shuttle, said Adrienne Piazza, associate director of student engagement and director of the Bonner Scholars Program.

However, students were asked to sign up for a spot for the CCE shuttle that took voters to Henrico County’s early voting place on Oct. 24.

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The CCE is continuing to sponsor shuttles on Election Day to Tuckahoe Elementary School, a polling place for Henrico County residents, Piazza said. Students who live in University Forest Apartments 170 A-H UR Drive and Gateway Village Apartments are Henrico County residents, Piazza said. The shuttles will leave from Tyler Haynes Commons at 1:30 p.m., 2:10 p.m. and 2:50 p.m., according to the CCE’s webpage.

For students who registered to vote using their campus address, their in-person polling place is the Jepson Alumni Center. Polling places open at 6 a.m. on Election Day, and all voters in line by 7 p.m. are allowed to vote, according to the CCE’s webpage.

The CCE webpage provides information and links about voter registration, provided shuttles, voter ID requirements and absentee voting.

CCE staff initially focused on registering students to vote and helping those who wished to vote in their home state request absentee ballots. As deadlines for those actions approached, CCE staff turned their attention to pushing people to send in their ballots or head to the polls in person, Piazza said. 

The office has also created the We the People initiative to provide a platform for discussion about what makes a healthy democracy, promote events on campus concerning the election and “address the need for access to information about politics and voting," according to the initiative's website.

Election-related programming includes mostly virtual events, including Brown Bag discussions every Friday and debate watch parties, Piazza said. Because the results of national and even local races may not be called on election night, programming after Election Day is especially important, Piazza said. The CCE will focus on programming that promotes self-care and processing the election, she said.

Piazza was unsure whether the early voting shuttle service would continue in future election cycles but said the CCE would consider it if early voting continued to be as widely advocated for and used, as it has been this fall.

“I don't know what next fall will bring and what voting will look like in Virginia next fall, but it is important for us to get students to the polls in a way that is safe and efficient,” Piazza said. 

Contact newsletter director Eileen Pomeroy at eileen.pomeroy@richmond.edu.

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