Make Election Day a Flex Day

We should lead the charge in making voting accessible.

Lucas Cohen-D'Arbeloff, Print Managing Editor

On Sept. 9, 2020, Head of Upper School Beth Slattery sent an email to families announcing that there would be no school on Election Day — Nov. 3, 2020. This change, she said, would “allow students and faculty to vote in person and people to volunteer as poll workers that day.”

Now, nearly two years later, we are in the midst of another election cycle. States across the country have held primaries for U.S. Senate, Congressional, gubernatorial and other state and local races in the past few months. And in a matter of weeks, many students, faculty and staff will find sample ballots for the Nov. 8 election on their doorstep. But according to our school calendar, Nov. 8 is just another school day.

Both of the reasons for canceling classes that Slattery outlined in her 2020 email still apply in 2022. For one, allowing the school community to visit in-person polling places would give them more flexibility if they somehow do not receive their absentee ballots, and it would also allow them to update their voter registration record with the County Clerk. This would certainly help make the voting process less of a hassle, especially for eligible students, nearly all of whom are first-time voters. At a time when states across the county are drafting and passing legislation to restrict voting, the school should be leading the charge in making it more accessible.

Also important, as Slattery noted, is enabling members of the school community to serve as poll workers on Election Day. Anyone age 16 and older is eligible to volunteer in Los Angeles County, meaning many upper school students could participate. When I served as a poll worker in this year’s June 7 primary election — on which the school scheduled several final exams — I found it to be a fascinating glimpse into the interior of local government and a simple way to give back to my community. By holding classes on Election Day, the school is discouraging those who, like me, are interested in volunteering in the Nov. 8 election. Instead, after giving the community the day off, the administration could actively encourage students to become poll workers by providing details about the program and distributing sign-up materials.

As a school community, we must promote civic participation consistently — not just when a flashy Presidential election is on the ballot. In midterms, primaries and recall elections, the school must affirm the importance of voting when crafting our school calendar. By not applying the logic used to justify a day off in 2020 to this year’s election, the school is indirectly endorsing the idea that off-year elections are not as important.

There are several ways that the school could accommodate Election Day in its schedule, including moving any of the currently scheduled fall Flex Days to Nov. 8. But whatever logistical hurdles the administration must overcome to make this change will be worthwhile if it means just one more person is able to vote or volunteer at the polls this year. Whether it is Joe Biden, Gavin Newsom or Karen Bass on our ballots, the school should be a steadfast ally to our civic participation — not a barrier.