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Monday, October 02, 2023 — Houston, TX

Rice prepares for Election Day

Hai-Van Hoang / Thresher

By Bonnie Zhao     11/2/22 12:23am

Early voting for the midterm elections ends on Nov. 4 in Harris County. On Election Day, Nov. 8, Sewall Hall’s Welcome Center will be Rice’s on-campus polling location, open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

The closest early voting location is the John P. McGovern Texas Medical Center, which is a 15- to 20-minute walk from central campus, and it offers parking validation at the McGovern parking garage for voters. On Election Day itself, students can also vote at nearby off-campus locations, such as McGovern or the Emanu El synagogue just across Sunset Blvd. from Martel College. A full map of early and Election Day voting locations can be found at harrisvotes.com.

During the 2020 presidential election, Rice policies forbade any Election Day due dates and required all instructional materials to be available asynchronously, according to the Office of the Registrar. This year, no campus-wide voting accommodations exist. Instead, President Reginald DesRoches sent out a message, signed by other campus leadership, encouraging Rice professors to provide their own voting accommodations for students.

“We encourage all instructors to consider ways to support this goal for both undergraduate and graduate students,” DesRoches wrote in the message. “Some things you can do include canceling a scheduled class meeting, rescheduling for another time that works for the class and creating asynchronous options on Election Day to allow eligible students to cast their ballots. Faculty are also encouraged not to make assignments due or have exams on Election Day.” 

Amanda Louise Johnson, a Rice English professor, said that she has canceled all her classes on Election Day so that her students can use that time to vote.

“I decided to do so after realizing that many Rice students are registered to vote in other Texas counties and therefore might need to travel to cast their ballots,” Johnson said. “Making accommodations for Election Day helps remind the students of their obligations to their communities, which they should carry with them as they progress in their personal and professional lives.”

According to Johnson, she will hold office hours on Nov. 8 for students who are not voting that day, so they can drop in and discuss their progress in her courses.

Carrie McNeil, a Rice chemistry professor, said that she won’t be canceling class, but she will support students on Election Day through other voting accommodations.

“Voting is incredibly important, and I give my students extra credit for either voting or supporting someone to vote,” McNeil said. “This is such an important election for our state, and I want to make sure my students get to exercise their right to vote. I’ve posted announcements with polling locations, sample ballots and the Harris County website to see if they’re registered.”

McNeil said that she cannot give her students the entire day off to vote, because it’s very difficult to work out make-up labs for so many students.

“I have, though, made sure we are doing a lab that should finish much earlier than usual so they can vote after class and before the polls close,” McNeil said. “I will also let my students know that if their only opportunity to vote is during my class, I will let them come Monday or Wednesday instead. My NSCI 120 class will likely be a mix of Zoom and in-person to allow the first-year students the chance to vote in their first election.”

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