Students face voter registration problems at polls

Wednesday, November 7, 2018 - 12:35am

Several University of Michigan students were turned away from polling stations on Tuesday due to issues with their voter registration.

Several University of Michigan students were turned away from polling stations on Tuesday due to issues with their voter registration. Buy this photo
Miles Macklin/Daily

Several University of Michigan students were turned away from polling stations on Tuesday due to issues with their voter registration. Some students who used TurboVote to register experienced issues, while other students who registered with on-campus volunteers were also unable to vote.

Ann Arbor poll monitor John Yohdes said they had to turn away about five people who thought they were registered vote. Though not entirely sure why each person was not on the registration list, he said it is possible that students who experienced problems with TurboVote failed to send in paper documentation to the Michigan secretary of state’s office or city clerk’s office. Online voter registration is not accepted in the state of Michigan.

“What I think is happening is that those people fill it out and it says that they are registered,” Yohdes said. “At some place online, it says that they have to make a paper copy and send it to the secretary of state or to the city clerk — and that’s what they didn’t do. So technically, as far as the secretary of state or the city clerk are concerned, they’re not registered, so that’s been the problem, and that’s why all of these people have been taking provisional ballots.”

Though these individuals did not appear on the registration list, they were able to fill out provisional ballots. In order to submit the provisional ballot, voters must complete an affidavit stating that he or she registered to vote on or before the close of registration for the election and respond to questions regarding his or her identity and residence.

“A lot of them will vote provisionally, which means instead of being counted it goes to the city clerk and the city clerk determines essentially what to do with it but there’s some technical things that makes me think they won’t be counted,” Yohdes said. “Some people were pretty upset about it and we didn’t figure out until about halfway through the day that we were getting the same kind of provisional votes.”

Ann Arbor City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry said “the vast majority” of registration issues she heard about were students who thought they had registered online. Many of them, Beaudry said, declined to complete provisional ballots.

“So, a lot of those students then, we were told, were unwilling to sign the affidavit because they were acknowledging they didn’t actually complete the registration process,” she said. “The one requirement of a provisional ballot is that you’re swearing that you registered to vote and something happened, whether that’s a clerical error, lost paperwork, but that you did register and we don’t have the record.”

Beaudry also guessed one reason students may have had trouble voting was that they were registered in a precinct different than the one they went to vote at.

The University’s Ginsberg Center has been one of the main partners involved in registering students for the Big Ten Voting Challenge. Dave Waterhouse, the associate director of the center, said in their programming they stressed the point that voters cannot register online in Michigan, but said it was “possible that some students didn't note these verbal or written instructions.”
 
“We’ve spoken with colleagues at other institutions across the state, and it seems that some of their students experienced difficulty navigating the Michigan registration and voting process as well,” Waterhouse wrote in an email to The Daily. “Proposal 3 when implemented will allow voters to register right up until election day, preventing situations like this in the future. However, I know this is little consolation for the students who were unable to cast their ballots on Tuesday.”

In the middle of September, however, LSA sophomore Claire Ramsey registered to vote when an advocacy organization visited her political science class. She filled out the form, returned it to the group and received a registration card in the first week of October. When she arrived at the polls on Tuesday, the poll workers informed her that her registration card said she registered on Oct. 10, one day past the registration deadline.

“When I went today they said that’s the date it said I was registered at, but I know for a fact that I registered at least three or four weeks before that,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey is still unclear why she was not on the registration list, and she said she wished she was informed of the provisional ballot option.

“I didn’t even know there were resources available,” Ramsey said. “I thought the problem must have been on my end, so I just said, ‘Well that sucks’ and just left. I asked twice though to make sure there was nothing I could have done, they said both times I just had to wait until the next cycle.”

LSA sophomore Lanie Lott registered at a booth on campus in September, but when she arrived at the polls on Tuesday, she was told by poll workers that she was not registered to vote.

“I was so mad,” Lott said. “I really wanted to vote. I was super pumped about it. I filled out a ballot still, and I was upset about it. I called the clerk’s office and was like, explained my situation to them and they were like, ‘We don’t see your registration form, I don’t know what to tell you.’”

LSA freshman Madeleine Gannon registered to vote at a Michigan secretary of state stand outside the Michigan League in October. Prior to Election Day, Gannon wanted to check online to verify her registration.

“When I tried to access the sample ballot, I was unable to verify my information as a registered voter,” Gannon said. “I spent nearly an hour trying to verify my registration and journeyed into the depths of the secretary of state’s website on voter registration and the elections. Following my difficulty trying to access my status in the system, I immediately called the local clerk’s office, only to be told bluntly that I had never been registered. I then went and double and triple-checked the voter registration qualifications and steps listed online for eligible voters to try and see if I had missed a step.”

Though still confused, Gannon has thought of a few possible explanations as to why she was not registered to vote.

“The only conclusions I can drawn is either that (a) my form was lost or incorrectly filed by the volunteers at the registration stand, (b) that I had been provided with inaccurate information when I registered, resulting in a missing identification form, or that I completed the form incorrectly under the guidance of the volunteers, or (c) I turned 18 on the 29th, and I was led to believe that so long as I turned 18 before the election, I was eligible to register,” Gannon said.

Though Gannon said she takes some responsibility for not checking her registration status earlier, she thinks someone should have notified her if there was a problem.

“I think what I find most frustrating is the lack of communication,” Gannon said. “If my registration was filed incorrectly, or the forms were completed incorrectly, or I was ineligible, I never received any notice. I was left to assume that my registration would have been completed.”