Chateau residents turned away from polls

On Election Day, Jill SteinâÄôs third try at the polls was the charm. And as the Senate battle rages, her persistence âÄî and that of other University of Minnesota students initially turned away at the polls âÄî could make a difference. Stein, a Spanish and speech, language and hearing sciences senior, first tried to vote in Dinkytown, where she thought she was registered. She wasnâÄôt, so she got a rent statement from her apartment complex, The Chateau, which was intended to allow her to register the same day. Back at the polls, an election official told her she needed to bring a bill instead, and that he had already turned away others at the polls. She ended up going to her home precinct in Robbinsdale to cast her ballot later that evening, after class and work, where she was âÄúthankfullyâÄù able to vote. Kristina Bjornson, who was responsible for revising the rent statement for Chateau residents on Election Day, said tenants had successfully used the original statement in the 2006 election. However, Minneapolis Elections Department Director Cindy Reichert said this election was the first that legally allowed rent statements in place of utility bills as proof of residence. A court case allowed only residents of The District on Delaware, formerly Melrose Student Suites, to use rent statements in the 2006 election. As a result of that court order, Reichert said the law was changed so others could use rent statements as well. But she said the ChateauâÄôs statement didnâÄôt match the law âÄî it was missing an itemized utility charge, and it wasnâÄôt addressed to the resident. As a result, when The Chateau office opened that morning, students who had already been turned away from the polls were waiting for help from Bjornson. Attempting to comply, she crafted another letter that itemized utilities, but she addressed it âÄúto whom it may concern,âÄù which implies the election judge, and not the student. Because the rent statement is an extension to the utility bill rule, Beth Fraser, director of Governmental Affairs for the Secretary of State, said it needed to be addressed to the tenant. Lorien Mueller, community manager at University Village, said they took a proactive approach by encouraging residents to preregister. If they didnâÄôt do that, University Village gave them a ledger from their rental account that included rental and utility charges. Residents reported no problems, Mueller said. The complex worked with election judges to ensure they had the correct documents, she said. âÄúWe knew this one was going to be a big one, so we wanted to make sure we were ready,âÄù Mueller said. Ruth Kemp, a biochemistry and genetic cell biology and development senior, also had trouble on Election Day. After a Boynton Health Service bill didnâÄôt work, she obtained a rent statement from her landlord. But it didnâÄôt include itemized utilities, so she didnâÄôt try to use it; instead, she printed a cell phone bill from her online account, which sufficed. Given the closeness of the Senate race, she said sheâÄôs glad she was persistent about voting. âÄúI feel itâÄôs my duty, and I wanted to make sure I did [vote],âÄù she said. Fraser said they may do more in the future to communicate with landlords and tenants about the specifics of the rule. She added that itâÄôs always troubling when citizens face voting obstacles âÄî and thatâÄôs why the state changed the law to allow rent statement use. âÄúIt is disappointing in any election,âÄù she said, âÄúespecially when the race is close.âÄù