By Kaylan Ware, Howard University News Service
As Election Day approaches, many displaced students are seeking ways to ensure that their vote is counted. To confront this uncertainty, Howard’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) held a session called “Why your vote matters!” on Friday, September 18, that had over 20 students in attendance. This detailed, but quick session offered information and resources to guide students and combat voter hesitancy.
The event featured a presentation by SAAC’s executive board discussing voting types and the basics of registering and emphasizing how important it is for young Black students to vote. Details on how to become a poll worker were also shared.
SAAC president Tiffany Hunt suggested that students stay informed through websites like Voter.gov, which is used to check voter registration status, and USA.gov that explains how voting has changed due to the coronavirus and what options a registered voter has this year. Hunt also spoke about absentee ballot deadlines.
In an effort to unify the university, junior soccer player Emery Simon is proposing that Howard observes Election Day and dedicates it to encouraging students to get out and vote.
“What I learned this summer while taking a state and local government class is voter suppression is a really big deal in certain areas in this country where people are really trying to make it so certain demographics of people can’t vote and unfortunately, a lot of times those demographics are minority communities,” he said. “So, what I wanted to do was while everybody is home, and while we’re not on campus, is make it a really big deal for Howard to shut the campus down – have no classes on that day. Everybody can get out and vote because it really is an important election. We all need to play our role and play our part and go out and vote.”
Senior track and field athlete Rachel Elder urged students on the call to pay attention to methods of voter suppression that may be more active in certain states. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “thirty-six states have identification requirements at the polls. Seven states have strict photo ID laws, under which voters must present one of a limited set of forms of government-issued photo ID in order to cast a regular ballot – no exceptions.”
“I just want to emphasize that voter suppression is real,” she said. “They’re really paying attention to the signature that you signed at the poll, and they’re comparing it to the signature on your ID. You have to be cognizant of that.”
The presentation also described how essential poll workers are in minority communities and how their presence may be particularly impacted by the coronavirus as “58 percent of poll workers are over the age of 60.”
“Many of these poll workers over the age of 60 will be staying home this year,” track and field athlete Zachyre Lane said. “And this is how it affects the minorities in our communities. Underrepresented communities are at higher risk for COVID and are at the highest risk for missing out on the chance to vote. They’re disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. They’re most likely to vote in-person voting sites, so voting sites need to be prepared. Well trained poll workers are essential in black and brown communities where these risks exist.”
SAAC adviser Dr. Morgan Fisher encouraged students to take advantage of the resources provided during the session and understand their potential for impact in the 2020 presidential election.
“The reality of the vote this year is pivotal,” she said. “It’s crucial. I know a lot of times we feel isolated, we feel ignored in this country, but we must vote, we must rise up and vote. That is the only way that we can make our presence known and heard. That’s at the ballot box. So no matter how you feel, or how frustrating it may be, I hope and pray that you will have the opportunity to vote. That is basically your obligation as a citizen of this country to vote.”
She hopes SAAC will host more information sessions leading up to October voter registration deadlines.