Virus threatens a long-anticipated surge in student voting
College students were once hailed as a crucial voting bloc in 2020, but their momentum may be halted by the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered campuses from coast to coast.
Registration drives, absentee ballot parties, political forums and new voter trainings are all on hold. Students are scrambling to chase down absentee ballot forms that were mailed to campuses but must now be forwarded to a home or other address. Newly designated campus polling places will stand empty for the remaining primaries, several of which have been delayed in any case. And students who return this fall will have little time to prepare for Election Day.
Advocates for making the coronavirus pandemic the time for changing American voting habits are taking heart there won't be any polling places for three of the next four Democratic presidential contests.
Voting in Alaska and Hawaii will now join Wyoming's caucuses in being conducted entirely remotely, among the latest wave of changes in the world of elections during a historic public health emergency.
While several states moved to make voting easier, Wisconsin pressed ahead with plans for a traditional primary April 7 and has now been confronted by four federal lawsuits hoping to force changes. And Florida reported the first known cases of poll workers subsequently testing positive for coronavirus.
After more than two years of work, the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service has produced 164 recommendations for improving education about how our country works and for encouraging more people to engage in public service.
Most of the attention on the 225-page report released this week, titled "Inspired to Service," has focused on a single recommendation: requiring women to register for the draft the way men have had to for four decades.
What's being missed is how critical the panel views public service in all forms — from joining the military to volunteering at the local food pantry. Also lost is the report's comprehensive overview of where the country stands in civic education and public service and its detailed agenda for improvement.
Uriel Epshtein is executive director of the Renew Democracy Initiative, created three years ago by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov to combat populism, promote core constitutional values and offer a home to political centrists. He came to the job after stints at the Boston Consulting Group, DoorDash and Uber. As a Yale undergraduate, he founded and continues to chair the Peace & Dialogue Leadership Initiative, which promotes campus college dialogues on policy in the Middle East. That experience had a profound influence on him, he says, as he began to see increasing similarity between polarized partisan U.S. politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His answers have been edited for clarity and length.
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RDI produces content with the goal of empowering the American public to understand and prioritize core constitutional principles.
Even as the streets empty and people retreat into their homes,"it is essential we maintain our commitment to protect each other," writes Auburn professor Jesús Tirado.
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