Cal Poly Election Guide

Image is a green background with the text, "Election Guide".

The 2020 election may be the most consequential election of our lives. This election is happening not only during a global health pandemic but also amidst an economic recession and a social movement that is bringing together people to counter anti-Black racism. Cal Poly is positioned as an institution of higher learning that can support and ensure students are informed, prepared, and motivated for action and civic engagement. Encouraging students to engage in the democratic process is a non-partisan activity that can have huge impacts on creating a more equitable, just, and inclusive world.

On November 3rd, the country will vote for not only the presidency but a host of statewide offices and propositions. To ensure every member of the Cal Poly community is well informed and able to engage in this important civic duty, the following are some resources.

This site is updated daily. Please check back for additional updates.


Post-Election Events

Post-election virtual space open for all students, staff, and faculty hosted by the Election Working Group

30pm  A Cal Poly panel discussion featuring  Michael Latner Professor, Political Science Department  Amber Williams Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology & Child Development  Thanayi Jackson Assistant Professor, History Department Moderated by  Elena Keeling Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

 852 6699 0343 November 4, 6, 13, 20 and December 4.

Wednesday, November 4On-Campus BIPOC Student Processing Spaces hosted by Student Development and Belonging  

Wednesday, November 4On-Campus Open Student Processing Spaces hosted by Student Development and Belonging

BIPOC student Processing Spaces  11/04/2020  Student Diversity and Belonging will be hosting on campus Post election processing spaces. All processing spaces will adhere to covid-19 guidelines.   Masks Required, physical distancing required, 10 student limit  Facilitated by: Beya Makekau Interim Director Student Diversity & belonging  Time: 11:00am-12:30pm Location: The Mustang outside of UU220  Facilitated by: Leilani Hemmings Pallay  Black Academic Excellence center  Americorps  Time: 10:00am-11:30am  Location: Lawn in Front of Spanos Theatre  Facilitated by: Olivia Tran  Gender equity center coordinator  Time: 3:00pm-4:30pm  Location: Benches outside the MCC  Facilitated by: Lilianne Tang multicultural center coordinator  Time: 3:00pm-4:30pm  Location: The mustang outside of UU 220 OPEN Student Processing Spaces  11/04/2020  Student Diversity and Belonging will be hosting on campus Post election processing spaces. All processing spaces will adhere to covid-19 guidelines.  Masks Required, physical distancing required, 10 student limit  Facilitated by Dr. Jamie Patton  AVP student affairs Diversity and inclusion  Time: 11:00am-12:30pm  Location UU plaza stage steps  Facilitated by Nick Bilich  men & Masculinities coordinator  Time: 10:00am-11:30am  Location: Benches outside the MCC  Facilitated by Katie Ettl  gender equity center americorps  Time: 10am-11:30am  Location: UU plaza stage steps

Faculty Resources

Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT)

Cal Poly’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT) has gathered resources that can assist faculty engage students in conversations post-election. Below are two links that can be helpful:

Preparing to Teach About the 2020 Election (and After) 

[Adapted from University of Michigan]

This guide is a resource for instructors from any discipline to establish conditions for post-election discussions in their courses. Below, are reflective questions and resources designed to help instructors think about their disciplinary investments in the election conversation, consider the stakes for their students and themselves, and have preliminary conversations with students about civic engagement.

To support a free and fair exchange of ideas, the following four questions can guide you in preparing to address the 2020 Election, regardless of the election outcome.


1. What role does my discipline play in the issues raised by this election?

Our students need to be able to critically evaluate the platforms of candidates and elected leaders. Every discipline is somehow implicated in these agendas and related policy proposals, whether the topic is health care; history, race, and the Black Lives Matter movement; education, immigration and the rights of refugees; fracking or climate change; gender inequality and LGBTQ rights; or international relations and the “war on terror.”


As you prepare to facilitate discussion about the election, consider these questions:

  • Which topics within my discipline might require special attention in light of the election?
  • How might the candidate platforms be a resource for teaching and learning these topics?
  • How might my discipline be impacted by policy decisions as a result of the election?
  • What are the diverse perspectives and voices that characterize my field related to these topics, and how do I maintain some balance in presenting them? ​


Related Resources:


2. How might my courses allow students to practice some of the fundamental, particular skills required by democracy?

Regardless of your course topic, you can help your students begin to practice habits of mind that allow them to engage critically and learn from unfamiliar perspectives--habits that are important for their participation in democracy. In addition to the content of our individual disciplines and courses, there are overarching democratic skills that students can develop in courses across the University. These include:

  • The ability to engage in respectful discourse and thoughtful argumentation
  • The capacity to speak and listen in ways that promote collective learning and advance social good
  • The skills of critical literacy and the ability to evaluate bias in text, discourse, and other mediums


Related Resources:


3. What is ‘at stake’ for students and instructors in discussions about the 2020 Election?

When preparing to discuss the election and its results, it is important for you to consider what is ‘at stake’ for the members of your classroom community. For example, students and instructors whose identities are repeatedly targeted or negatively represented can feel unsafe, unwelcome, and drained emotionally and intellectually by the rhetoric and realities of this election. This can and does include members of our Cal Poly community who are Black, Indigenous, LatinX, Asian American, Arab American, Muslim, migrants and immigrants, LGBTQIA, women, or people with disabilities. It follows then, that classroom discussions about the election have the potential to reproduce harm and magnify the stakes for targeted communities. As such, instructors must carefully design and facilitate discussion with an awareness of the stakes involved.


Beyond the stakes of the law and policy issues in the election, consider what is at risk for students (and for instructors) during a classroom conversation about the election. Here are some stakes to consider:

  • Academic Risks & Consequences: 

Are there, or do students perceive that there will be, academic consequences for sharing their perspective during (or opting out of) an election-related discussion?


  • Experience of Vulnerability: 

Might this discussion surface students’ deeply held beliefs, assumptions, and worldviews? Might this discussion make visible their personal experiences or their political investments? How are the stakes of vulnerability different for members of different groups (e.g., Black, LGBTQ, disabled communities and other groups)?


  • Changes to Relationships: 

How might the relationships between students, or between students and the instructor, change in the course of this discussion? What connections and disconnections might result?


  • Belonging & Exclusion: 

What are the stakes of this discussion for students and instructors from marginalized and underrepresented groups? In what ways can this discussion signal to these students that they belong (or don’t belong) in the classroom community, in the discipline, or at Cal Poly?


  • Experience of Harm: 

What forms of harm could be produced in real-time for students and instructors during this election discussion? What harms related to systemic injustice do we need to avoid? How will we distinguish between these actual harms vs. the feelings of productive discomfort that arise when students are challenged to learn?


Teaching during this election season will undoubtedly be challenging. We encourage you to use the resources by the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT).


Structuring Classroom Discussions about the 2020 Election 

[Adapted from University of Michigan]

1. Choose an Election Topic to Discuss
Instructors will host a range of election-related conversations in their classrooms, from analyzing the election through a disciplinary lens to making space for students to debrief their reactions to the election results. Some instructors may also be thinking about what they’ll do if an ‘unexpected’ conversation arises in their course even when the election is left off the official agenda. While all of these scenarios involve ‘Election 2020’ as the discussion topic, each of these examples invokes a different set of stakes for students and instructors. Make a plan for a specific classroom scenario in order to promote close alignment between your goals for discussion and your instructional choices. 


2. Identify a “Critical Friend”
Who do you trust to share ideas with and to offer you helpful critiques? All instructors can benefit from having someone to offer feedback on their discussion plan. Consider identifying a colleague or booking a consultation with CTLT   to get feedback while you develop your approach to discussion.  


3. Consider the Stakes
Before thinking about discussion prompts and activities, consider what may be at stake for you and your students during an election discussion. Before addressing the logistics of your discussion plan, think through what might be at stake:

  • What risks will students take on in the process of participating in an election debrief? 
  • What are the risks for as an instructor in my particular Department/discipline? 
  • How might the risks be experienced differently depending on the social identities held by students’ and instructors’, or their relationships to institutional power and authority? 
  • What can be gained (e.g. for learning, a sense of belonging, classroom community) if this discussion is facilitated well?


4. Define Your Goals.

One way to think about discussion goals is to ask yourself: What do I want to ensure happens during the discussion? What do I want to avoid? Defining and sharing with students your clearly articulated objectives can help set participant expectations and link your discussion to other course goals. Specific objectives for your election discussion may focus on disciplinary connections, policies, civic responsibilities, or the high stakes of the election. Examples include: 

  • Connecting the election with course learning objectives; for example, by exploring disciplinary connections and investments in the issues raised by the election. 
  • Making space to acknowledge the range of emotions (fear, disappointment, elation, confusion, anger, relief) that may be present within your class.
  • Enhancing skills for dialogue across differences.
  • Practicing the skills of critical literacy and the ability to evaluate bias in text, discourse, and other mediums.
  • Analyzing the root causes or reasons for a social conflict (i.e., a past-oriented discussion).
  • Exploring possible consequences or implications of the election (i.e., a future-oriented discussion).
  • Planning effective actions to reduce harms experienced by students targeted by election rhetoric. 
  • Relating classroom discussion to the roles that students have as members within the university community and larger society.


5. Choose Structures

‘Structure’ refers to the formats, activities, guidance, and resources that you will use to support your election discussion. As you choose structures, ask yourself: 

  • What discussion formats/ activities will best further your goals? 
  • What discussion guidelines will be important to provide or establish with student input before starting discussion? 
  • How much time should you devote to this discussion? 
  • What resources will you have in place to support your students beyond this discussion? Think: office hours, supplementary readings, other events & organizations, etc.



6. Choose Facilitation Strategies
While facilitation strategies are often instructors’ focus, the following was intentionally left as the final step in the process to illustrate the ways that the preceding steps help create the conditions for effective facilitation. The strategies in the Resource links below will help you navigate these and other critical in-the-moment facilitation decisions:

  • How will you explain your decision to devote class time to talking about the election? How will you frame your decision for your students if you decide not to spend much time? 
  • What language will you use to acknowledge the high stakes of the discussion?
  • How will you provide a common starting point (shared learning goals, definitions, etc.) for students to engage in discussion?
  • What will you do to get conversation moving if your students are silent?
  • What language will you use to respond and guide students through moments of tension, emotion, and/or conflict?


CTLT Resources:

Addressing Detrimental Behavior

Responding to Zoombombing


Voting and Election Day

Find my Polling Place- Including On-Campus 

Check your poll location using the California State Secretary Poll Location tool. 


Cal Poly On-Campus Poll Site


Register to Vote

Register Online Through Ballot Bowl

Cal Poly is participating in California Students Vote Project (CSVP) Ballot Bowl initiative to increase civic engagement and voter participation among California university and college students. The campus with the highest percentage of registered voters wins a trophy. Let's win this Cal Poly! Check out Ballot Bowl registration tracking.

To register online you will need your CA driver’s license or CA ID card number, the last 4 digits of your Social Security number and your birthday to register online.

Follow these steps to register to vote online:

  • Go to
  • Check the option the applies to you, then click ‘Next’.
  • Input the rest of your information into the California State Voter Registration Form.
  • Select California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo) for University or College affiliation.
  • Carefully, review your information, then submit your form.
  • You’ll receive an email confirmation of your application.

Update Your Voter Registration Status If...

  • Your name has changed.
  • If you have changed addresses since March 3, 2020.
  • Your political party affiliation has changed.

Register By Mail

Register In Person

  • Get the Voter Registration Form at the San Luis Obispo Elections Office , any DMV Office, and many post offices, public libraries, and government offices.
  • Fill out the form.
  • Return the form to the San Diego County Elections Office by October 19.
  • Military Federal Voting Assistance Program

  • The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) works to ensure Service members, their eligible family members and overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote and have the tools and resources to successfully do so - from anywhere in the world."

Complaints of voter fraud may be reported to via the Secretary of State's Voting Information Hotline at 1-800-345-VOTE, or by filling out the Fraud Complaints Form and submitting to the address listed at the end of the form.

Vote by Mail


[Video provided by the Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP)]


Benefits to Mail-in-Ballot

  • SIMPLE. A mail-in ballot, instructions and “I Voted” sticker will be mailed to all registered voters starting Oct. 5.
  • SAFER. Make voting decisions and mark your ballot comfortably at home.
  • SECURE. Seal your completed ballot in your postage paid envelope.
    • Be sure to sign it, date it and return it by mail promptly so it is received well before Election Day. Your signature is required for your ballot to count! Sign your name like it appears on your driver’s license or ID card.
    • You can return your mail-in-ballot at these locations in San Luis Obispo County.
  • CELEBRATE. Join the campus Election task force for National Vote Early Day, on Saturday, October 24. 
  • TRACKING. Sign-up for text notifications for “Where’s My Ballot?” Sign up now to receive notifications. 
    • If you haven’t received your Mail-in-Ballot by October 19, call the Registrar of Voters at (805) 781-5228.

In Person Voting    

If you must vote in-person, be aware that you may face long lines and must follow CDC guidelines for in-person gatherings.

  • Make sure you go to your assigned polling place. You can find your assigned polling place on the back of your sample ballot and voter information pamphlet or you can look it up online.
  • Be prepared. Mark your selections on your sample ballot and voter information pamphlet in advance so you can quickly fill in the official ballot in the voting booth.
  • Wear a mask and practice 6-feet of social distancing. Adhere to CDC Guidelines. 

Learn more about voting safely in San Luis Obispo County at the Registrar of Voter's site.


8 Things That Are New This Election

California has implemented a host of measures so citizens can securely cast their ballots. These measures don’t only make voting safer, they make it easier and more convenient, too.

Here is what’s new this year:

1. Everyone has the option to vote by mail  

Starting October 5, California voters will receive a mail-in ballot at the address where they’re registered. Simply fill it out, sign it, date it and drop it in the mail (no postage required). You may also return it at an official ballot drop box or polling location — or opt not to use it and cast your vote in person at the polls.

2. You can track your ballot  

Find out when your mail-in ballot has been received by elections officials and — best of all — when it’s been counted with California’s new ballot tracker. The tool also enables election officials to follow up and correct any issues that might prevent a ballot from being counted.

3. Rules have changed to account for mail delays  

Mail-in ballots have to be postmarked by Nov. 3, Election Day — but will have up to 17 days to arrive at elections offices. That doesn’t mean you should wait until the last minute. You can return your ballot as soon as it gets to you — which could be as soon as the first week of October (you may already have it!)

4. You can — and should — vote early  

To eliminate long lines at the polls, many California precincts are allowing voters to cast their ballots in person as early as Saturday, Oct. 31, four days before Election Day — and even earlier in some places. (Check the rules for your precinct.) Those voting by mail should try to complete their ballot as quickly as possible.

5. You can register on Election Day  

It takes just five minutes to register, and you can do so online through October 19. But for those who miss the deadline, election officials have added a backup option. Eligible voters can go to their local polling place on Election Day, fill out a same-day voter registration form and cast a provisional ballot. Your vote will still be counted once officials have confirmed your eligibility to vote.

6. There will be new protocols at the polls  

Masks will be required at the polls, as will a social distance of six feet or more both in line and at polling stations. That may make lines especially long, so consider bringing reading material and packing a lunch — or choosing another option, such as mail-in voting. Double-check your polling location before you head out, in case of last minute changes.

7. There will be vote centers throughout San Luis Obispo County  

California has created upgraded polling places, known as vote centers, which offer an expanded array of services. These centers, which can be used by voters registered anywhere in the county, are open for voting from as early as 11 days before the election. They also provide streamlined services for last-minute registration or changes to a voter’s address. Check if there is one near you.

8. We probably won’t know the winner on election night  

We get it: Everyone’s eager to learn the results. But with so many people voting by mail, together with predicted high turnout and a shortage of poll workers, a final tally may be slow in coming. And a fair election may hinge on our ability to wait. “Results change,” Hasen cautioned. “If it’s close, people are going to need to have patience and to follow official sources of information.” .


More Resources

Self-Care for Managing Election Stress  

Prioritizing self-care is an important step in our daily lives, especially in times of distress. In the wake of heightened emotions and concerning incidents throughout the country and on our campus, here are a few tips for self-care to get you to through the next upcoming days.


  • UNPLUG. Limit your consumption of media, particularly of the 24-hour news cycle of social media variety. Stay informed, of course, but instead of constantly scrolling your newsfeed, try one of these other options.


  • BE PRESENT. It is important to be aware of and acknowledge our thoughts and feelings. Pay attention with non-judgmental curiosity, and give yourself permission to feel the way you do. Although distraction can be useful, unaddressed intense emotion can also have negative impacts.


  • FIND A HEALTHY ESCAPE. Do something engaging or energizing to manage your feelings rather than turn to potentially harmful or hurtful coping mechanisms (i.e. excess substance use) Get outside. Practice mindfulness. Exercise. Journal. Meditate. Read something light. Make art. Watch a funny movie. Laughter is often a good antidote for stress and anxiety.


  • CONNECT. Engage with supportive friends and allies. Talk about it if you need to, but also communicate your boundaries when needed. Not everyone will share your perspective. Give yourself permission to walk away from a conversation that is feeling uncomfortable, heated or too stressful. Reach out to a mental health professional such as those at Counseling Services or another trusted individual.


  • REPLENISH. Get back to self-care, and focus on restoring yourself. Get enough rest. Eat well. Drink plenty of water and fluids. Move daily… walking, stretching, breathing are great ways to replenish.


  • DO SOMETHING. Channel what you are feeling into something that is meaningful and purposeful to you. Get informed and be proactive around issues that matter to you. Find ways to engage with your community through volunteering and advocacy.


It’s easy to feel alone or isolated during these times, but remember there are resources throughout campus with the sole purpose of helping you find your way. Below are links to a few resources and pages that may be helpful during these turbulent times or for any other problems you may be facing.

Office of the Dean of Students – Student Support, Success, and Retention

Student Diversity and Belonging (SDAB)

Office of University Diversity and Inclusion (OUDI)

Counseling Services



[Adapted from University of Northern Colorado]


Election Events

Event Date Information

Why Your Vote Matters with Senator Cory Booker

Register here

Tuesday, October 20 1:30-2:45 PM (PST)

U.S. Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker will share his perspective on the role our students can play in creating a just and sustainable society through civic and community engagement in the final stretch before the November elections and beyond. California State University, Long Beach alum and Legislative Manager for the California League of Conservation Voters Melissa Romero will educate students about 2020 ballot initiatives that will have an impact on the environment and our communities.

So What Did You Think of the Debate? Presidential Debate Debrief

Register here

Friday, October 23 10:00-11:00 AM (PST)

Join faculty, staff, and students from across the country for a national discussion to debrief and discuss the first Presidential Debate. Designed to reach across differences and create a space for discourse, this national facilitated dialogue is based on the fundamental value of the pursuit of knowledge for the public good. 

Putting Voters First: Democratic Reforms

Register here

Wednesday, October 28 11:00AM-12:00PM (PST) Join us for a conversation with Colorado’s Election Director Judd Choate. He will explain the innovative voter-as-customer model that Colorado has developed, which serves as an exemplar nationwide, and will also provide a view of the national election model landscape. He will discuss challenges that voters may face, how to understand early voting statistics, and the tabulation of votes on and after Election Day. There will be time for Q&A.
National Vote Early Day Saturday, October 24

Avoid the election day long lines. Cast your ballot before November 3!

Once you receive your ballot, follow the instructions and fill it out. Be sure to sign up to track your Mail-in Ballot before you drop it in the mail. Mail your ballot at least 7 days before election day.

So What Did You Think of the Election? Debrief Election 2020

Register here

Wednesday, November 11 10:00-11:00AM (PST)

Join faculty, staff, and students from across the country for a national discussion to debrief and discuss the 2020 Elections. Designed to reach across differences and create a space for discourse, this national facilitated dialogue is based on the fundamental value of the pursuit of knowledge for the public good.

 Activism and Community Engagement Beyond Voting" above the text "Tuesday 10/30 1-2PM Link:".  842 4290 7669".  867 4627 7118"

 813 6617 6639 Moderated by Thanayi Jackson Featuring Marilyn Tseng, Erica S. Stewart, Ben Ruttenberg"

                                                         Green button with the text "Election Resources & FAQs".


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