IBy Bonnie Bauer
worked as an election judge at the Ward 2, Precinct 4 polling station that was in Coffman Union this past election. I am writing only as a person that was there, and I do not represent the secretary of state, the city of Minneapolis or any officials. I wanted to write in about my observations on the voting process. I love my job as an election judge; I love being a part of the process of people voting. It was difficult for me to work at a polling station that had to turn many potential voters away.
First, there was a lot of misinformation that had been circulated to students. Many of the students in the residence halls were told that they were already registered, and this was not the case. Minnesota state law allows colleges and universities to provide a list of all students living in their residence halls.
This list is used as a verification of address and then the students only need to show their student ID. However, this is a special case for students living in the dorms. I spoke with many students who were under the impression that they only needed to show their U Card, even if they didn’t live in the dorms.
Other students came in and said that they had been told they could vote there because they were a student, regardless of where they lived. This is not true. You need to vote where you live. I realize for many students the “where they live” part can be confusing.
Many students still count their parent’s house as their “where they live.” However, according to the state of Minnesota, you are a Minnesota resident after living in Minnesota for 30 days. All of the students living on and around campus are Minnesota residents in the eyes of the state, and that is why they can register to vote at their current address. The lines drawn for the precincts are a bit confusing, and the precincts are small enough so that your next-door neighbor or the person across the street could be voting at a different location than you.
Second, there were students who did not have the proper form of identification in order to register to vote on the day of the election. Minnesota is one of six states that offers same-day registration, a fact that I believe contributes to our high voter turnouts.
In Minnesota, you can register to vote by mailing in a card before the election. On this card you provide information about yourself, answer two short questions and affirm the oath that you are who you say you are and that you are eligible to vote.
If you register on the day of the election, you need to have a photo identification and proof of address. If you have a driver’s license or state ID with your current address – great! If not, like so many of the students around campus, then you would need photo identification and a utility bill. The types of utility bills are limited by state law and though it would make sense to have something such as a lease as a proof of address, it’s not in the law.
The other option is to have a voucher. With this system, you need to know one other person who is registered or can register to vote in that precinct and they sign a form vouching for you. To the many students who were frustrated on Election Day, please know that Minnesota does try to accommodate as many people as possible and that registering in advance is the easiest course to take.
I would ask two things. Because so many students on campus are first-time voters, and even if they have voted before they might be first-time Minneapolis voters, I believe that the Minnesota Daily should run a story just before Election Day that talks about how to vote and where to vote, citing specifics from the city of Minneapolis and the state (such as correct forms of ID, where to vote, how to know where to vote, etc). Also, I would encourage students to register to vote ahead of time. This saves a lot of time at the polling station and it does not matter if you have a utility bill.
And just a note, because so many times this ends up feeling like an “us versus them” conversation: Election judges take their job seriously and it is our job to follow the laws and procedures. I want everyone who is eligible to vote to be able to go out and vote.
Bonnie Bauer is a University graduate student. Please send comments to [email protected]