Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Student ballots challenged at election Tuesday

Student ballots challenged at election Tuesday
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION - ANC 3D 02 and 07 candidates Tyler Sadonis and Deon Jones cast their votes in the 2010 election. Local polling stations included the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church (Precinct 9) and the Horace Mann Community Center (Precinct 10).

More AU students voted in D.C. Tuesday, and more ballots have been challenged this year than in recent memory, according to Precinct 9 Captain Lawrence Williams.

Williams estimated that roughly 35 ballots had been challenged throughout the day.

He has been a Precinct Captain for about 10 years and said there were more poll watchers this year than before.

Tom Smith declined to be interviewed for this video.
Throughout the day Tuesday, there were five poll watchers at the Metropolitan United Methodist Church, the voting location for Precinct 9, he said.

Poll watchers are the only people who can challenge a ballot, and they must do so before a vote is cast, according to Wendy Solovay, an independent lawyer who volunteered for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics for election day.

The D.C. BOEE had two lawyers on-site at the Precinct 9 voting location.

Solovay said she thought it was clear that poll watchers were looking for student challenges.

Williams said he thinks poll watchers were specifically looking to challenge student registration.

“There was concern to ascertain that every one of these new registrants are legitimate,” Williams said. “It’s very rare to have conflicts, anyway.”

If a ballot is challenged, the voter must cast a provisional ballot. Same-day registrants also must cast provisional ballots. Anyone who cast a provisional ballot must then submit proof of D.C. residence to the BOEE within 10 days.

Most of the students who tried to vote Tuesday did not have sufficient identification, according to Williams.

Several AU students said that their votes were challenged.

Freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences Christina Poe said she provided her student housing assignment and her Oregon driver’s license when she voted, but she was still challenged.

“It’s frustrating,” Poe said. “Students live here and work here ... We’re paying bills here too, and we should get the same right to vote as everyone else ... I purposely chose not to register to vote in Oregon so I could vote in D.C., and now I have to fight for it.”

The BOEE was not accepting print-outs from the portal showing residence in AU dorms as proof of residence. Williams said poll workers were asking voters to prove residency with “something more substantial,” like bank statements.

Julia Berk, a sophomore in the Kogod School of Business who lives in McDowell Hall, said her vote was challenged on the grounds that she had registered under false information.

Many AU students voted successfully. SPA freshman Dave Cotter, CAS freshman Will Mecklenburg and Kogod junior Daniel Woods all said they voted without a problem or a challenge. Cotter and Mecklenburg both said they live in McDowell. Woods said he lives in Anderson Hall.

“It was easy,” Woods said.

Bill Starrels said he was a poll watcher for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 3D 02 Tom Smith. Starrels is the current commissioner for ANC 2E 05 and is vice-chairman of ANC 2E. He said he was at the Precinct 9 polls Tuesday to make sure procedures were followed.

Starrels said he challenged voters who lived in both ANC districts — 3D 02 and 3D 07.

Smith declined to comment on the election, itself, but said he was disappointed in reports he heard from his neighbors about AU students’ conduct Tuesday afternoon.

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