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How Do Penn State Students In Quarantine & Isolation Vote?

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, next Tuesday’s presidential election is shaping up to be one of the craziest in recent history.

Between mail-in voting, civil unrest, and rising coronavirus case numbers, 2020 isn’t a typical year to vote for president. Penn State students, especially those in university-mandated isolation or quarantine, are no exception to this year’s unprecedented election cycle.

As of Penn State’s most recent COVID-19 Dashboard update on Tuesday, 100 students are either isolating or quarantining in Eastview Terrace. But how will these students cast their ballots? If they plan to vote in person, how will they get to the polls if they’re stuck in Eastview?

Conal Carr, Penn State’s director of housing operations, has been working alongside Jennifer Garvin, director of ancillary services, to provide solutions for voters in university-mandated isolation or quarantine. As it turns out, it’s actually pretty easy for Housing to help students voting by mail get their votes counted.

“Any mail-in ballots that are received at the Commons Desk for on-campus students are forwarded to the student in [isolation or quarantine],” Carr said. “This is the same process we’re using for packages.”

Housing also employs a tracking system to ensure students properly receive their ballots. In prior weeks leading up to the election, students would have been able to exit Eastview Terrace and mail the ballot themselves. But as November 3 quickly approaches, Housing staffers are increasingly needing to pick the ballots up and mail them in themselves.

“Staff wearing the appropriate PPE, pick up the ballot (envelop) and place it in another large manila envelope,” Carr said. “Then that envelope to taken back to the office and picked up by the Commons Desk staff. Again, the ballot is tracked so we know it was received by the desk and mailed in.”

All students need to do in order to get their ballots picked up is contact the concierge program desk, located in Brill Hall. Carr said he picked up five ballots himself last Sunday.

But for students stuck in Eastview who planned to vote in person, things get a bit more complicated. Luckily, Housing has a plan in place that it will employ next Tuesday.

“The local authorities and Pennsylvania government overall have a system in place for last-minute emergency ballots, and [isolation or quarantine] for COVID-19 would be in that category,” Carr said. “So our staff will help facilitate the process and make sure these students receive a ballot and have it retuned on Election Day.”

This emergency ballot system allows folks who have unpredicted medical emergencies, absences, or business duties to still vote in Pennsylvania. The deadline to submit these ballots is 8 p.m. on Election Day.

However, Carr doesn’t anticipate needing to use many of these emergency ballots. Many Penn State students vote by mail or send in absentee ballots to their home counties.

“Fortunately the numbers in isolation and quarantine remain low,” Carr added. “The actual number of in-person ballots should be very low.”

If you still have outstanding questions about the election, make sure to check out our voting guide for Penn State students. Get out there and do your civic duty, folks!

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected].

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