With election day arriving on November 8, 2022, Maryland residents will soon have the opportunity to elect key figures to represent the state. The positions include: executive officers, eight members of the United States House of Representatives, one of its U.S. senators and the Maryland General Assembly.
In November, students, faculty and university staff at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County can cast their vote in UMBC’s new ballot box. The box was installed in the Commons on Thursday, October 6, 2022.
To use the ballot box, voters need to register, request a mail-in ballot on the official state website and then place it in the ballot box no later than Thursday, November 3. The box is located in the lobby of The Commons next to the Campus Information Center (CIC). The building operates with the following schedule:
Monday – Thursday: 7:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., Friday: 7:30 a.m. – Midnight, Saturday: 8 a.m. – Midnight, Sunday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
To UMBC’s Center of Democracy and Civic Life, finding the best spot to install the ballot box was crucial. As the Center’s Director David Hoffman, and Coordinator for Civic Design Tess McRae explained, this area was chosen due to its high traffic and constant observation by the CIC staff.
Having a ballot box on UMBC soil has not been, however, the first effort on part of the university to provide the campus community with convenience and security as they vote. UMBC has taken other steps to increase voter turnout on campus. Hoffman said, “the university has undertaken several initiatives in the past to make voting as easy as possible.”
He noted a collaboration between “the Student Government Association and UMBC Transit,” who worked to provide students and staff transportation to voting by “providing shuttles to early voting sites.”
Attention on voting access and safety has continued with the installation of the ballot box and has contributed to UMBC’s ranking as 6th in the nation for its number of students making official pledges to vote.
According to the data published on October 11, 2022, UMBC takes 6th place in the nation with 104 pledges made through ALL IN, Vote’s Pledge and Vote competition.
Discussion of installation began in July 2021, as leaders from the UMBC President’s Office, Division of Student Affairs, Division of Administration and Finance, SGA and Resident Student Association held meetings with officials from the Maryland and Baltimore County Board of Elections to install an official polling station on the UMBC campus. Despite effort, this option ultimately proved to be cumbersome for the university; it was expected to require dedicated parking, special security measures and other changes.
Luckily, an official from the state Board of Elections came up with a better solution: a ballot box. The Board agreed to provide the box and pick up deposited ballots daily, starting several weeks before the primary and general elections.
The convenience of this solution is sure to support the rising political engagement within the UMBC community. McRae stated that “57% of registered student voters cast a ballot in 2018; in 2020, 84% did so.” Involvement is increasing and could continue to go up at UMBC.
UMBC students can pledge to vote on the ALL IN to Vote website.
See you in The Commons.
“Election Ballot Box” photograph by Raine Vazquez
Anna Mishonova is junior Media Communication Studies major working as a probationary writer in News. Contact Anna at @firstname.lastname@example.org