Some vote with the help of Bursar’s, utility bills

Steven Bushong

Students struggle to prove in-state residence, use documents with Ohio address to cast vote

Tracy Gorman thought she had all the documents necessary to vote yesterday.

She had her voter registration form mailed to her from the Portage County Board of Elections, and she had her Pennsylvania identification.

“That wasn’t enough,” said the sophomore middle-education major from Pittsburgh. To the surprise of Gorman and other out-of-state students yesterday, a voter registration form cannot be used to prove an on-campus address.

Utility bills suffice, but no student who lives in a residence hall receives a utility bill or several other similarly sufficient documents. Without those, voters are forced to vote on a provisional ballot.

But a little ingenuity among poll workers and the administration went a long way for those who encountered this complication yesterday.

As it turns out, an official letter from the university proves residence as well as any utility bill can, and the secretary of state’s office agrees, said Tom Neumann, associate vice president of university communications and marketing.

At about 2 p.m. yesterday, it became the university’s priority to get student voters official university letters.

A series of calls between administrators led to the Bursar’s office staying open until polls closed. There, workers printed a number of students’ generic information on a university letterhead so they could vote.

“We were asked to help out and we did,” office manager Stina Olafsdottir said. “People are trying to get out the vote, and our students are willing to go the extra mile to get the documentation they need.”

Voting on a provisional ballot is a contentious process because the votes are not counted until weeks after the election.

“I wanted my vote to be counted,” said Gorman, who hitched a ride to the Bursar’s office with one of several election volunteers based at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. Volunteers drove in loops from polling location to the office.

“I was actually happy that there was someone willing to drive me there, but it was still a pain because I had a class to go to, and I was about a half hour late,” she said.

Students received a university-wide e-mail shortly after administration verified that a Bursar’s letter could qualify as proof of residence and that the office would stay open until 7:30 p.m.

“The bottom line is we got (the problem) rectified and we’re moving on,” said Greg Jarvie, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

Contact enterprise reporter Steven Bushong at [email protected].