Students who couldn’t vote can file complaint

By Marissa Meredyth

The Allegheny County Elections Division will not look into reports that 50 to 100 people could… The Allegheny County Elections Division will not look into reports that 50 to 100 people could not vote on Election Day unless students file a formal complaint, and if they do, the investigation process could take anywhere from a week to several weeks, a county official said Thursday.

Mark Wolosik, county Elections Division manager, said students should contact the Elections Division if they wish to file a complaint.

He said he couldn’t remember the last time such a large number of people were unable to vote.

During this week’s election, up to 100 people who showed up to the polls were not on the general register in Ward 4 District 7, based in Soldiers and Sailors, said Blithe Runsdorf, a judge of elections who was working there.

The reason is still unknown.

Runsdorf said that most of the people who couldn’t vote said they had filled out registration forms in their dormitories.

She said none of those students remembered which organization handled their registration.

Wolosik said that registered voters should have received registration cards two weeks after they submitted their forms. If they hadn’t, they should have called the county to ask about it.

Although it’s possible the registration forms were misplaced somewhere throughout the process, it’s also possible that it was the voters’ fault they weren’t registered.

The most common problems with registration forms are legibility, failure to put a social security or driver’s license number, or putting an address down that is out of Allegheny County, said Diane Boscia, manager of voter registration for Allegheny County.

“In those cases we send a letter out to correct or get the needed information to process the form,” Boscia said. “The forms remain in pending until this is done.”

The students who couldn’t vote during the election on Tuesday should have had the opportunity to file an provisional ballot if they thought they had registered.

Runsdorf said no provisional ballots were filled out in her precinct, an opportunity guaranteed under the Allegheny County Procedures for the Conduct of Elections.

The workers are supposed to offer provisional ballots to everyone, and election workers will later determine whether the person is actually registered, Wolosik said

“If you’re not registered, the provisional ballot won’t help you,” he said.

Although officials were hesitant to say fraud could have been the culprit, they did mention the dangers of submitting voter registration forms — an official document with personal information — to anyone other than the Elections Division.

Wolosik said that the Elections Division have no protections against people using voter registration forms to take people’s personal information.

For large registration drives, the Allegheny County Board of Elections will give out one to two boxes of voter registration forms. Each box contains about 1,500 forms, Boscia said.

Boscia said they have no oversight or training for organizations that run registration drives.

She added that groups doing registration drives are told to put a group name on each of the registration forms. When student groups hand deliver the registration forms, they are asked to fill out a form with the approximate count of registrations they are turning in for processing.

The Student Vote Coalition and ReEnergize the Vote were some of the organizations on campus that handled many students’ registration forms, but it is not possible to trace who registered the phantom voters.

Alexa Jennings, SGB governmental relations chair and head of the Student Vote Coalition, said the voter registrations forms they used during tabling and canvassing were recorded by partner organizations, such as ReEnergize the Vote and PennPIRG.

She also said the volunteers who participated in the drives were all trained by people who have worked on campaign and registration drives.

She added that the coalition’s efforts involved asking many organizations on campus to register voters.

She did not know who might have done registering in Lothrop Hall— where Pitt student Hetal Patel, one unregistered voter, said she registered.

Miller Nuttle, who worked with ReEnergize the Vote, said in an e-mail that although the total number of student voters showed Pitt’s political engagement, he thought the voting process should be improved.

“We certainly hope that the county board of elections will take steps to assess what happened at Pitt on Tuesday, and take strong measures to ensure that these problems don’t occur in the future.”

Runsdorf said the students were turned away at Soldiers and Sailors said they filled out registration forms in their dormitories.

But few who spoke to The Pitt News remembered who actually registered them.

Boscia said that one voter registration group had called her the day after the deadline with 14 registrations that they had not submitted yet, but she could not remember the names.

“I told them they were out of luck, it’s late,” she said.