In order to help relieve students’ burdens, UMKC Student Government Association (SGA) Senator Noah Kuzca authored the Election Day Attendance Act last week. The bill encourages staff and faculty to be flexible with attendance, assignments, quizzes and tests due on Election Day, Nov. 3.
The measure passed quickly with the help of SGA President Brandon Henderson.
“I’m really happy that every other senator in attendance saw the urgency and importance of the bill,” Kuzca said. “I think this can also set a precedent for just how important a bill has to be to get the kind of special treatment we saw.”
This important election comes in the middle of a lingering global pandemic, making it even more difficult to turn in a ballot. The majority of students do not qualify for one of the seven Missouri absentee voting requirements, and mail-in ballots have the added step of needing to be notarized. This means that for many students, voting in person on Election Day is the easiest option. Kuzca said he considered this while budgeting time to vote on Nov. 3 and still going to work and class.
“I started wondering if teachers would be OK excusing students, or if they’d be more hesitant about it,” Kuzca said. “I thought it’d be helpful to make it apparent that students shouldn’t be penalized, but also we still should be required to make up any work missed.”
Henderson expressed his support for the bill, and he said that it may help to improve turnout and fight stereotypes about young voters.
“It’s important to me that all UMKC students who want or need to vote on Election Day can do so without being punished academically,” Henderson wrote on Twitter. “There are a lot of folks who like to disparage young people and their low voter turnout rate, so here’s hoping we prove the haters wrong next week.”
The sentiment was shared by other students on campus, including UMKC College Democrats President Mason McGregor.
“It’s important to make sure that all students are able to make their voices heard in a democracy that continues to feel less and less democratic,” McGregor said. “If we force some students to choose between their school work and their civic duty, a lot of young people’s votes are going to end up not being cast.”
McGregor also said he hopes professors will continue to be lenient until the election is over and every ballot has been counted.
“Don’t make us choose between our academic future and our political future, because the two are indistinguishable when you consider the positions and policies we’re voting on,” McGregor said.
After Henderson signed the bill, UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal sent a statement to students and staff urging faculty to take special considerations on Election Day.
“While we are not in a position to cancel classes on election day, I want to urge all of our faculty to be flexible with schedules and attendance policies that day,” Agrawal wrote. “Students should check with their instructors in advance to determine whether allowances will be made for students experiencing long wait times to vote.”
Agrawal added that faculty and staff are able to receive paid time off in order to vote.