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Campus Early Voting a Town-Gown Win

Early voting comes to the UMass Amherst campus today, October 25. It is one of four early voting opportunities for students on campus in this 2016 election season. Complete information is in the News tab of the site.

Efforts to bring voting back to campus have intensified this year with some student groups lobbying the town for a new voting precinct. As recently as 2005, UMass Amherst had a sub-precinct funded by the Student Government Association. As the costs for that arrangement with the town were prohibitive, the SGA asked for its dissolution. Since then, students registered to vote in Amherst have had to venture off-campus to the ballot box.  

UMass MassPIRG chapter had been exploring what it would take for the town of Amherst to set up a precinct on campus for students. However, state election laws determine the number of precincts in a municipality. Even if a location were to come to campus, off-campus students live in a number of precincts and one campus polling station would not be a solution to increasing voting participation of the local aged 18-22 demographic.

Just this year, Massachusetts became the 30th state to allow early voting. The Town of Amherst planned to offer the option for two weeks from Monday, October 24 through November 4 in Town Hall. 

The Office of External Relations helped broker a meeting with Town leadership in September with the understanding that bringing the vote back to campus would be a longer term project. At the meeting, Amherst Select Board chair, Alisa Brewer, and Town Manager, Paul Bockelman offered SGA leadership the opportunity to bring early voting to campus for four days in the heart of the campus at the Student Union. We thank both Alisa and Paul for providing an innovative solution. It is continued evidence of our strong town-gown partnership.

Over the past several weeks, SGA leadership and campus administrators led by Lydia Washington, associate director, Student Activities and Involvement and the SGA advisor, have worked tirelessly to ensure that all the details to ensure that early voting is a success. On the town side, this experiment would not work without Amherst Town Clerk, Sandra Burgess. While early voting off-and-on-campus is still in the experimental stage, we're hopeful that the expanded access will lead to greater engagement both now and in the future for our students.