Before classes even started this semester, UM students were being encouraged to register to vote by numerous organizations. However, two months later, some students are finding themselves shut out from the polls.
While the efforts of national groups like Rock the Vote and UM’s Get Out the Vote [GOTV] have added many students to the voter rolls, not all students’ registration forms have made it the elections office.
Sophomore John Warnecke wanted to get his vote in as early as possible, so he went with his friends to the first day of early voting on campus on Oct. 25. After standing in line for more than an hour, Warnecke stepped up to vote and was told he wasn’t registered and thus couldn’t vote.
Other students have discovered they’re not registered even before making it to the voting booth.
Transfer student Leah Delpercio, junior, knew she was going to register in Florida before she arrived at UM. During orientation, her orientation assistant had everyone register to vote and said they’d get the forms to the elections office. Delpercio never received her registration card, but didn’t think anything of it until her roommate, who registered in October, received hers.
“I didn’t think to check if I was registered,” Delpercio said. “I just figured that was how things worked in Florida.”
When Delpercio called the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, she was told she wasn’t on the rolls, it was too late to file and that she wasn’t allowed to vote in this election.
“They weren’t nice and they weren’t helpful,” Delpercio said. “They could barely speak English, and I had to sit through an hour-long ordeal of them trying to find my name on the roster list.”
Warnecke, like Delpercio, thought he’d registered in August. While he was in the UC someone with a clipboard approached him and had him fill out the right form. All the organizations that had permission to register people on campus used tabling and didn’t walk around the UC, so Warnecke has no idea what happened to his registration form.
“During orientation there were other groups from the community coming on campus,” said Pamela Schiess, director of GOTV. “We couldn’t get rid of and monitor them all the time.”
The Office of Student Affairs received a few other complaints before Election Day about problems people had registering and have worked with the Elections Department to work through the issues.
“We had a complaint from a mother of a student whose name didn’t appear on the voter registration rolls. It turned out that their name was misspelled,” said Gilbert Arias, assistant vice president of Student Affairs. “Another student listed their address in Broward County.”
Voters had the opportunity to check if they were on the rolls last Wednesday at the Partisan Fair sponsored by GOTV.
“We’ve registered 800 people since Oct. 4 and turned in all the forms after making copies of them,” Schiess said. “The problems people are having are isolated incidents, mostly where people turned in the form but the Elections Department couldn’t read it.”
No matter what the reason, many students who thought they were registered are not, and they’re not happy.
“I’m outraged and embarrassed,” Delpercio said. “In a state where every vote really counts, problems like this could make a huge difference on the outcome of the election.”
Students who spoke with the Elections Department were encouraged to register so they can vote in the next elections, but for this year they’ll have to sit it out.
Catherine Howden can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.