For the first time in 10 years, voters cast a ballot on the Arizona State University Tempe campus.
A coalition of ASU student groups had lobbied the Maricopa County Recorder’s office to open the location at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex for the recently-concluded Nov. 8 general election.
Austin Marshall, president of the student organization ASU Young Democrats, earlier said it is important for students to have access to polling locations because more student votes will result in a government that is more accountable to student needs.
“More than any other generation, we’re going to be living with the consequences of the 2016 election,” Marshall said.
Marshall said issues like higher education, women’s rights and immigration reform are especially important to students, and by increasing their participation, elections will have a fairer and more representative outcome.
After the primary elections earlier this year, many students wondered why an on-campus polling location was not available, Marshall said.
Previously, voters cast their ballots at the Knights of Pythias Lodge, just over a mile away from ASU’s Tempe campus.
Marshall said some students, especially those without cars, had trouble getting to the lodge but still wanted to vote.
The Tempe campus undergraduate student government worked in partnership with ASU Young Democrats, ASU College Republicans and the university administration in asking the Maricopa County Recorder’s office to change the location.
While considering potential sites on campus, the coalition factored in accessibility for individuals with disabilities, parking on Election Day, minimizing confusion and other ways to make the transition seamless.
“We wanted to make sure that whatever we proposed didn’t come at the expense of the rest of the community and only served to create student access,” Marshall said.
The student leaders suggested two potential locations: the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and the Wells Fargo Arena, he said. After touring the locations with the undergraduate student government, the county recorder’s office chose the former.
Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell said after every election, her office evaluates the success of each polling location, such as by considering voters’ ease of access.
It was the same evaluation process that motivated the recorder’s office to move the polling location from the campus to the Knights of Pythias Lodge in the first place. Purcell said voter turnout was low when the polling location was on the campus in 2006, and the county didn’t want that repeated this year.
ASU Young Democrats, ASU College Republicans and the Tempe campus undergraduate student government worked together to address those issues.
One of Purcell’s major concerns was the lack of free parking near the Tempe campus, so student leaders arranged free parking at the Apache lot near the Sun Devil Fitness complex on Election Day, and individuals with disabilities had access to a curbside ballot drop-off location as well.
The Tempe campus undergraduate student government also worked to educate the student body about the location and voting process, and register eligible students to vote.
Brandon Bishop, Tempe campus undergraduate student government president, said he hopes the change in polling place locations would show students that they, too, can make a difference in the political arena.
“I think a lot of students choose not to vote because they think it’s either going to take too long or it’s too hard to vote,” he said. “Hopefully we will see a rise in young voters in our precinct and in Arizona.”