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Tri-campus students vote ahead of election day

| Monday, November 2, 2020

While Election Day is tomorrow, as of Sunday afternoon a record 93 million Americans have already voted, which is two-thirds of the entire voting population of the 2016 election. The New York Times reported the country is estimated to surpass 150 million votes for the first time in American history. 

The Observer recently polled its followers on Twitter asking how they are voting in the election. Of the 177 responses, 72.9% have already voted by mail, 11.9% said they voted in-person, 9.6% said they have yet to vote, but will and 5.6% said they will not be voting. 

Isabella Volmert | The Observer
The mailbox outside of South Dining Hall is one of the on-campus locations Notre Dame students could mail their absentee and mail-in ballots.

Senior Michael Marotta, co-chair of ND Votes, said while it’s too early to know how many Notre Dame students have voted, he predicts students will complete their ballots in greater numbers than in the 2016 election. 

ND Votes is a student run, non-partisan campaign sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns, the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy and the Constitutional Studies Minor with the mission of mobilizing and educating Notre Dame voters. The have sponsored a number of events this past semester in preparation for the election, and they prepared a voting guide for students.

ND Votes participates in and utilizes the work of the National Study of Learning Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), an initiative of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, a research center focused on college students’ participation in democracy 

The NSLVE created a report on student voting rates at Notre Dame in the 2016 election, and concluded a 54% voting rate among students at Notre Dame. Both Marotta and senior Rachel Sabnani, who is also a co-chair of ND Votes, expect a larger turnout among students this election. 

Sabnani said their organization saw an uptick in interest in their work this year, starting back in the summer.

“We have really exponentially grown,” she said. 

ND Votes’s task force is made up of student dorm representatives and representatives of various political and non-partisan ]clubs and organizations on campus.

“Our task force has doubled and tripled in size,” Sabnani said. 

Additionally, the club has been contacted by a number of other ND organizations as well such as academic departments, the athletics department and even personally by Muffet McGraw.

Sabnani said they were also contacted by national organizations with similar missions as ND Votes such as Democracy Works and Voting Counts. 

Sabnani attributed the increased interest in ND Votes to a few factors, one being the club’s neutral position.

“I think the country became more partisan and divided in the past few years, [so] people are drawn to our nonpartisanship,” she said. 

She also noted college students this year were in high school during the last election. She said since then, they have noticed how the government has affected their families and lives.

“I think a lot of new young people are forming a political conscious,” she said. 

Marotta said almost everyone they have asked are registered to vote, which he believes is a result of the 2020 election’s heightened polarization. 

Saint Mary’s junior Catherine O’Neil cast her ballot through the mail, although she said she had a difficult experience. 

O’Neil, originally from Illinois, initially requested a ballot from her home county to be sent to her school address.

“It was my first time voting in a presidential election,” she said. 

After weeks of waiting, O’Neil called the county clerk’s office and discovered her ballot had instead been sent to her permanent home address. O’Neil then requested a new ballot, but also had to mark the first ballot as “spoiled” for her new one to be counted. 

O’Neil said she had trouble finding information on what do do in her situation and several of her friends from her hometown experienced a similar problem. She is still worried if her new ballot will be counted in time.

“Is my vote even going to be counted at this point?” she said. 

O’Neil said she is passionate about making sure her vote was accounted for especially after the events of this past year.

“It’s a big year for the president, it’s a big year for the House,” she said. “It’s really important to make sure that the people that are in charge are people who are willing to speak for the people instead of just themselves or their donors.” 

Margaret McGreevy, a Notre Dame junior, was able to vote in-person a few weeks ago in South Bend. “I’m local so it was easier for me to vote in-person. I wanted to be sure my vote would be counted,” she said.

McGreevy and two of her friends went to vote early in the morning one Friday. She said the process of voting took about an hour and fifteen minutes, as there was a long line, and then got breakfast together afterwards. “We kinda made like a half day of it,” she joked.

McGreevy and her friends, after voting, saw former South Bend mayor and former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg in line. “He was just standing in line along with everyone else, she said. “It was kinda cool to see a politician going through the voting process just like anyone else.

The three friends were then able to take a socially-distanced picture with Buttigieg. “I think voting is so important, McGreevy said. “I felt very empowered to go in-person and very lucky.

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About Isabella Volmert

Isabella Volmert is a senior majoring in English and minoring in theology and journalism, ethics and democracy at the University of Notre Dame. She served The Observer as assistant managing editor during its 2021-2022 editorial term. Follow her @ivolmertnews for niche Twitter content.

Contact Isabella