The Pac-12 is the first conference to announce a main-in ballot movement for its athletes, going beyond the NCAA-encouraged time off on Election Day.
All 12 athletic programs will “facilitate registration and acquisition of mail-in ballots for all willing and eligible student-athletes” before National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22. It is part of the conference’s social justice and anti-racism efforts.
Today, we announce a commitment among our athletics departments to facilitate registration & acquisition of mail-in ballots for all willing & eligible Pac-12 student-athletes prior to #NationalVoterRegistrationDay on Sept. 22.— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) September 2, 2020
📎: https://t.co/z2HElQxrWj#Vote | #BackThePac
Pac-12 makes it easy for athletes to vote
The idea was first proposed by football and mens’ basketball head coaches in the conference, per the Pac-12, and was unanimously approved by the council.
“For many student-athletes, this is their first opportunity to participate in an election,” Washington football coach Jimmy Lake said in a statement. “As members of our community, it is crucial that we not only educate our young men and women on the importance of voting and how to register, but to also help them understand the many dynamics of voting on the local and federal levels. Change will only happen if we take action. I encourage our younger generation to use their voice by exercising their right to vote.”
Cal women’s basketball coach Charmin Smith said it is “imperative” that student-athletes understand the importance of voting.
“I believe the youth will be responsible for the majority of the change we seek surrounding social justice and anti-racism,” Smith said. “Their voices must be heard, and actively participating in the electoral process is a solid next step.”
The conference formed a social justice and anti-racism advisory group in July as part of initial steps to promote social justice and fight racism. Schools are also providing student-athletes information on voting and registration ahead of the election.
Student-athletes given day off for Election Day
Colleges and conferences began announcing in June that they would give their student-athletes the day off from sports on Election Day. The NCAA later encouraged all of its member colleges to follow suit. And the Mid-American Conference moved a football game it had scheduled for election night, though the entire season was later canceled.
The decisions came in response to the ongoing protests after George Floyd’s death as well as movements of activism from players and coaches.
“We encourage students to continue to make their voices heard on these important issues, engage in community activism and exercise their Constitutional rights,” the NCAA said in a statement.
The day off is helpful for students who attend college near home. Between classes, practices, team responsibilities and games it would be difficult for student-athletes to get off campus and vote. That’s especially true if they are from an area that cut down on voting precincts or machines, creating longer lines for people to vote.
But it didn’t do anything for the thousands of student-athletes who are nowhere close to their home districts to vote. There are nearly 20 million undergraduate students, and many of them don’t vote because of the hurdles involved in acquiring absentee ballots.
The Pac-12 mail-in movement provides student-athletes an avenue to help them get their ballots. and it will make it easy for anyone interested to have their voices heard in the election.
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