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Students had problems finding where to vote on Election Day

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Dozens of students were turned away from the Baker University Center polling place during Tuesday’s election because it wasn’t where they were supposed to vote.

For some students, that was okay; nothing was going to stop them from voting. Others said if voting became too much of a hassle, they weren’t even going to try.

Poll workers gave students the address of their correct polling place if they were turned away, but not being able to vote as they had planned stopped some students.

Nathan Sulecki, a junior studying computer science, was turned away because his polling place was elsewhere in Athens. According to Sulecki, the other polling places aren’t easy to find.

“I’ve got a lot of other stuff going on today,” Sulecki said. “I want to vote, but if it gets to be too much, I just won’t.”

Baker Center isn’t the only place students were turned away from, according to Debbie Quivey, the director of the Athens County Board of Elections. It was, however, the place most students tried to vote.

“It’s a central hub,” Quivey said. “I’ve seen it for years: students will try to vote at Baker because they’re already there or that’s where their friends are going. It’s just not right though. You have to vote where your address says.”

The Board of Election sends out acknowledgement cards with voters’ polling locations when they register for the first time or change their address, but it doesn’t go out yearly.

A problem Quivey often sees is that students won’t change their address when they change rooms on campus or move off campus all together, so when they go to vote, they aren’t in the correct place.

Even for those who had registered at their correct address, finding where they could vote posed a problem.

“I had no idea where to vote until about 20 minutes before I walked in,” Matt Bernstein, a sophomore majoring in sociology, said. “If they would have sent out an email or something, that would have made it a little easier. Better campus involvement, like sending it out the list of where each of the residence halls have to go to vote, could probably make this whole thing smoother.”

Students can often solve the problem by casting a provisional ballot. Those ballots are designed for those who didn’t change their address but want to vote in their new precinct. They “really give voters a second chance,” Quivey said.

Athens residents cast 222 provisional ballots at the Board of Elections alone, according to Quivey, which she said was high compared to past years. Provisional ballots do not get counted on election night, but still go toward the final totals.

In order to cut down on confusion during next year’s presidential election, the Board of Elections has plans to set up a “satellite office” in Baker Center. It will create a central location for students to vote provisionally.

“Presidential elections are huge as far as turnout goes,” Quivey said. “Students vote on things that impact them, so a satellite office will make it easier for everyone. We have to do it sometimes, but the goal is to not send anyone away.”

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