By Evan Santos
After eight long years, KU finally has a polling place for student voters back on campus. The third precinct in Maxatawny Township saw over 1,200 voters, many of which were KU students, fulfilling their civic duty on or before election day on Nov. 3.
The 2012 election was the last time KU had a polling location on campus.
After the township moved it from Keystone Hall to the township building, KU was without an on-campus polling location and student voters had to bus to the precinct, roughly three-and-a-half miles from the campus.
Over the past eight years, many students on campus have pushed for a polling location to return, and this year, they got their wish.
“It was really nice to not have to go anywhere to vote,” said Kara Steckel, a senior Spanish education major. Steckel is one of many students who took advantage of the short walk to the Student Recreation Center to let their voice be heard in the 2020 election.
“I think it definitely helps encourage students to vote since it’s so easy, and I hope it stays like that for future elections,” Steckel added.
Encouraging students to vote was the driving force behind getting a location back on campus.
Kayla Hudak, a graduate student in student affairs, was in her undergraduate years at KU when the battle for returning a polling place to campus was ongoing. She expressed that it is important for students to be able to vote on campus.
“The university is a public institution with thousands of students, some of whom don’t have cars. When you take away that polling place on campus, you are stripping them of that right to vote,” Hudak said.
In 2014, Hudak along with other members of the Student Government Board marched from Keystone Hall to the Maxatawny Township Building in an effort to make a statement and eventually return the polling place to campus.
Being able to vote on campus in 2020, Hudak said, was a rewarding moment.
“Voting this year as a full-time employee and graduate student really allowed me to reflect on my experiences in my undergraduate years, and I just felt honored to be a small part of getting that polling place back to campus,” Hudak said.
While the return of a polling place on campus is a start, some students want more.
Bobby Frankenfield, a junior elementary education major, said having off on election day would make things even better.
“Election day happened to fall on my busiest day of classes, so I wish the university would’ve considered calling off classes to stress the importance of voting. Nonetheless, I’m very appreciative of what they’ve done to get a polling place right here on campus,” Frankenfield said.
Stressing the importance of voting was part of the agreement KU made when they earned the privilege of getting the polling place back. Over the months of September and October, many different organizations hosted events to inform students.
These events included Know Your Voting Rights hosted by the ACLU Lehigh Valley Chapter, Be Informed, Inform Others! Non-Partisan Voter Education Panel and Student Panel on Presidential Election.
“I think it was extremely important to vote in this election. I feel that everyone has a voice, and it is a basic human right. So, I was happy to be a part of it,” said Kay Solderitch, a senior elementary education major.
There is no word on whether canceling classes for election day may be in future plans.
While the primaries in June were the first elections held at the new polling location in the rec center, the presidential election was the first one where students who were actually living on campus and in town were able to take advantage of the new location.
1,212 votes were cast in the third precinct, which includes mail and in-person ballots. That number is down from 2016 when the township building saw 1,427 votes cast.
In 2012, Keystone Hall was home to 1,636 voters, showing that it is likely not the location that is impacting turnout but rather changing demographics in Maxatawny Township.
It remains to be seen if the polling place on campus is here to stay, but it is certainly a step forward, eight years in the making.