Early voting may be coming to Binghamton University soon.
In a recent resolution, the BU Student Association (SA) advocated for an early voting site on campus grounds. The resolution, which was emailed to BU President Harvey Stenger and other administrators upon passage, calls upon the University and the Broome County Board of Elections to establish the early voting site.
As Election Day falls on a Tuesday, it can present a conflict to some students and professors who have classes and other obligations during the day. The legislation argues that an on-campus site would provide significant help and ease of access to the student population and campus community.
Early voting is a process used throughout the country, often to offer voters an alternative to the time constraints associated with going to the polls on Election Day. In the 2020 election, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 70 percent of all votes were cast early, either by mail or in-person at an early voting site.
Luca Cassidy, an SA representative for Hinman College and undeclared freshman, is the author of the resolution. Cassidy outlined how his idea came about, and the importance of early voting.
“As I was working on the legislation, the idea changed from a day off [on Election Day] to early voting after a wonderful meeting with the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE),” Cassidy wrote in an email. “Early voting is important because it makes it easier for students to participate. It gives them more time to vote, around nine days, and easier access.”
Cassidy is targeting the 2024 elections as a tentative date for completion of the project, and already has a few places in mind for the location of the site on campus.
“Logistically, the preferred locations are the Events Center and/or the Mandela Room,” Cassidy wrote. “We are not completely sure of when we can get this done, we do wish to get it ready by the next election, but we do not want to make any promises.”
Since the 1970s, there has been an Election Day polling site on campus. In 2020, the site was moved from the University Union to the Events Center to allow for more space due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time. However, there has never been an early voting site at BU.
There are currently four early voting sites in Broome County — the Broome County Public Library, the Oakdale Mall, the George F. Johnson Memorial Library and the Taste NY Building on Upper Front Street.
Alison Handy Twang, associate director of the CCE, said having an on-campus early voting site would allow students to fit voting into their schedules.
“Voting is one of the most important pathways for civic involvement,” Twang wrote in an email. “Early voting allows people to vote at a time and location that is most convenient for them. For example, rather than finding time to vote on a busy class day, students could opt to vote on a weekend. Students can currently access off-campus early voting sites, but hosting a site on campus would offer additional convenience, especially for off-campus students who cannot vote at the on-campus polling place on Election Day.”
Some student organizations on campus have been advocating for an on-campus early voting site. One such organization is Generation Vote, a nationwide movement to encourage Millennial and Gen Z voter participation. Gillian van der Have, team leader of Generation Vote’s chapter at BU and a junior double-majoring in political science and history, said the current voting situation disadvantages students.
“The way my classes worked out in 2020, I was in class on Election Day literally from the time polls opened to the time they closed,” van der Have wrote in an email. “I thankfully had access to a car and made it to an early polling site, but even there I waited two hours to cast my ballot. If I did not have this advantage, I would have had to choose between my classes and my constitutionally guaranteed right to a say in the way our democracy operates. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think that students should be required to choose between the two.”
Other students also expressed support for the SA proposal. Matt Schwartz, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said early voting is a way for all students to be able to participate in the voting process.
“I used an absentee ballot [in 2020],” Schwartz wrote in an email. “I support this resolution, because I think it is important to have early voting on campus because it allows every student to have the opportunity to have a voice.”
Coral Braverman, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry, said early voting would provide students with flexibility.
“I have only voted using an absentee ballot at [BU],” Braverman wrote. “I think this resolution was long overdue, as it can increase voting turnout by easing access to voting sites for students.”