Mackey Arena will host early voting and voting on Election Day to provide easier access to ballots for students, according to the staff chair of the Purdue Votes Coalition.
The basketball stadium will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 14 and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 3, said Mel Gruver, associate director for civic engagement and leadership development at Purdue.
Ten voting stations will be available for early voting, Gruver said, with 15 available on Election Day. Voters will enter Mackey from the east entrance on Northwestern Avenue, wait in one of three lines to enter identifying information and then head into the concourse near the trophy cases to vote.
Voting will not be on the basketball court, Gruver clarified. The machines will be placed on taped Xs on the floor in the shape of a horseshoe, with drapes and curtains blocking the entrances to the arena. Masks are required.
One of the questions in deciding on Mackey, Gruver added with a laugh, was, “How do we stop people from going on the floor to take a selfie?”
In a concurrent statement made Tuesday, Purdue Athletics confirmed that the Tippecanoe County Board of Elections has agreed to the proposal.
The athletic department also announced no required athletics activities will take place on Election Day to allow athletes and staff an unimpeded opportunity to vote.
"We recognize that there is no greater civic responsibility and no better way to make your voice heard than by casting your vote," Athletics Director Mike Bobinski said. "The decision to suspend activities on Nov. 3 was made in an effort to remove any barriers that might prevent our student-athletes or staff from making it to the polls and participating in this important part of our democratic process."
Gruver appeared at an August Tippecanoe County Board of Elections meeting and said she was working to earn an exception to the Protect Purdue Pledge to open a vote center on campus. She spent all of last week organizing a plan to make a gathering of more than 50 people safe, she said.
There were no vote centers on campus for the June primary election, which was pushed back nearly a month from its initial May 5 date, because of Purdue’s decision to cancel all in-person classes and events from Spring Break onward.
A number of people in the Purdue community emailed Gruver suggesting a spot for this fall: Mackey Arena, the basketball stadium with capacity for 14,240 people.
“We wanted to make sure that we provided the voting location for not just our campus community — we stay within state law so it has to be open to the public — without bringing people into the center of campus,” Gruver said. “In some ways, it’s like these huge spaces are the best spaces for social distancing.”
Gruver said it’s unclear how many voters will be permitted to enter Mackey at once to vote. The Board of Elections will meet in late September to formally approve the vote center and discuss further details of the new polling location.
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on State Street will also serve as a center for early voting from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 17, according to Tippecanoe County's online schedule. Early voting begins in the county on Oct. 6 at the Tippecanoe County Office Building.
The deadline to register to vote in the General Election in Indiana is Oct. 5, exactly three weeks from today.
“Students and community members will have the same number of options they’ve had in the past,” Gruver said.