Students Face Voting Challenges Amid Pandemic

Students Face Voting Challenges Amid Pandemic

Max Shannon '24, Staff Writer

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, student voters have faced new challenges, including delayed arrival of mail-in ballots and fear of long lines at polling stations. 

Sam Halpern 22, a student staff member for the Center for Civic Learning and Action (CCLA), said he will be voting through mail because “in person delays and long lines at the polls” are a serious concern of his.

Halpern said he had no issue receiving mail-in ballots during his state’s primary, but admits that “this isn’t everyone’s experience,” noting the chronic issue of voters receiving ballots late in the mail. Halpern says he is paying most attention to the two high profile U.S. Senate races in Georgia.

Tyler Catania ’21 is a fellow with Dickinson Votes, an initiative that seeks to register Dickinson students to vote in Carlisle or wherever they are registered. Catania said “I’ll be voting in person,” in Carlisle, because he is concerned that due to issues with the United States Postal Service (USPS) “they’ll get flooded with mail and I’m scared that my vote won’t count.”

Catania is not worried about the efficacy of mail-in voting, but believes more needs to be done to help voters. “There should be automatic voter registration once you turn 18…we should make election day a national holiday,” said Catania. This, he says, will make voting easier and accessible for everyone with fewer chances of fraud.

Out of the current races, Catania says that the presidential race and the current race happening for the House, between U.S. RepresentativeScott Perryand former Auditor General of Pa., Eugene DePasquale, for the 10th District of Pa., where Carlisle sits, are the most important to him. 

Chris Althouse ’24 from Philadelphia, also believes the presidential race is the most important.“It’s the most pivotal election and we need a change in that regard now more than ever,” he said. Althouse will be voting in person at his local elementary school Philadelphia.

Dickinson Votes has played a central role in mobilizing students to cast their ballots. However, there have been “various issues” with registering students, says Professor of Political Science Sarah Niebler. 

Niebler highlighted the challenges the pandemic has posed for voting, noting “we have students in different parts of the country,” and “every state has their own voting registration deadline.”

Niebler noted that despite these issues, Dickinson Votes has been successful in contacting students and notifying them of their state’s rules concerning voting. 

Professor of Sociology Erik Love agreed with Niebler about the challenges Dickinson Votes has faced, especially the fact that “most students are not here [in Carlisle]”. Despite these challenges, both Love and Catania believe that everyone helping with Dickinson Votes has done well. 

Love emphasized that students should register to vote in Pennsylvania immediately when they come back to campus.. “When you move into a new place, you register to vote, it has to be the first thing you do,” said Love. 

Love highlighted that Dickinson Votes not something that “happens every four years,” it is a continuous and sustained effort. Love urged more students to get involved with the initiative since there is still so much work that needs  to be done in registering students.Students interested in learning how to vote or how to get involved with Dickinson Votes contact either Professor Niebler or Professor Love at www.dickinson.edu/vote.