Pilot Fall Break At MSU Prompts Questions About Voter Turnout

Jan 24, 2020

Michigan State University is considering implementing a fall break into its academic calender to give students time to vote. But, critics of the proposal believe that a fall break could lead to lower turnout at the polls in 2020.


An initiative led by the Associated Students of Michigan State University to add a fall break to the school’s academic calendar was introduced by MSU President Samuel Stanley at December’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The proposed break would answer calls from students for both a fall break, and to have election day off.

It would give students a long weekend at the beginning of November by having no classes on the 2nd and the 3rd. Detractors say that’s where there might be an issue. 

Dr. Matt Grossmann is the Director of the Institute of Public Policy and Social Research at MSU. He said that while well-intentioned, having a break on election day might leave students away from their assigned polling place.

“The intention was good in that, and they would say was responsive to students concerns, and  it's just that sometimes when you try to respond to a couple of things at once you end up with a proposal that doesn’t achieve one of the objectives, and I think that’s what’s happened here.”

Sometimes when you try to respond to a couple of things at once you end up with a proposal that does not achieve one of the objectives, and I think that is what has happened here.

Some students don’t see any problems from a fall break. Nikhil Bandarkar, a Junior at Michigan State’s James Madison College, said that voting turnout is a non-issue when considering a potential fall break.

“I would argue that most students are registered at home, and with the new statute on absentee ballots that we passed back in November of 2018, it makes it much easier to get an absentee ballot and therefore allows more students to vote at home," said Bandarkar. 

The break hasn’t been finalized and is pending further review by the university's interim provost and other governing bodies at the college. There is no set timeline for the review, but if approved it could go into effect for the 2020 election. 

Polling from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Life and Engagement at Tufts University found over 28 percent of youth participated in the 2018 midterms, representing more than double the national youth turnout from the same data in previous midterm elections. 

According to another data set from Tufts, an estimated 7.5 million college voters participated in the 2018 election, an upward trend that makes students a coveted 2020 voting bloc for politicians. 

It's unclear how the break will influence young voters at MSU, or if it will change their behavior. But the break's ramifications for the 2020 election could be huge, drawing-in college voters as they have the day off to vote, or breaking them up, sending them away from their polling places.