Polling locations cause confusion for some Ohio State voters
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 03:11
Living in a residence hall, many students might have thought their voting location would be the Ohio Union. However, for students in roughly a dozen of Ohio State’s 36 occupied campus dorms, traveling off campus was necessary to be able to vote on Election Day.
Students who live in German House, Hanley Alumnae Scholarship House, Neil Avenue Residence Hall, Lane Avenue Residence Hall, Lincoln Tower, Morrill Tower, Pomerene House, Residence on 10th, Worthington Building, Scholars East and West and others had to travel to off-campus polling locations to cast their ballots because the buildings do not fall within the precinct lines for the Ohio Union voting location.
Counties are divided into precincts by county officials for voting purposes.
“Precincts are essentially units of administrative convenience for dividing up counties into the geographic units within which people (can) vote,” said Dan Tokaji, a law professor at OSU’s Moritz College of Law.
Students who went to the wrong polling location were not permitted to vote there. Tokaji said ballots are not counted when they are cast from the wrong location.
Tokaji didn’t know why the boundaries weren’t drawn in a way that kept OSU’s campus whole, but he said he was not surprised.
“(The county) wouldn’t necessarily be looking to Ohio State’s boundaries in ascertaining where the precinct boundaries would be,” Tokaji said.
Some students said they were not aware they had to go off-campus until the last minute.
“I actually didn’t know until yesterday night when someone came around to the different floors for the opposing candidate of who I was voting for,” said Makiah Estes, a first-year in animal sciences who lives in Lincoln Tower. “I never got an email or anything.”
Estes’ polling place was the St. Thomas More Newman Center.
“I was kind of mad that I had to walk so far to go vote. I didn’t even know where the Newman Center was,” Estes said. “I waited for I think an hour and 15 minutes.”
OSU Housing sent out an email Oct. 31 informing on-campus students what identification they needed to bring to be able to vote. The email also included a link to the Franklin County Board of Elections website, telling students they could go to the website to check their registration and the location of their polling places and to get walking directions to their polling places.
There was no other official email or message from the university telling students they would need to go off campus to vote, said Dave Isaacs, OSU Student Life spokesman.
Some students said they were prepared to vote off-campus and were even happy they had a different polling location than the Ohio Union.
“I got a little postcard in the mail that told me the address of my voting place,” said Emily Stokes, a first-year in industrial design who also lives in Lincoln Tower. “I thought it was fine. It was, what, a block off campus? ...After seeing the line for the Union, I was really glad I got to go somewhere else.”
Some students waited in line at the Union to vote for two hours Tuesday.
Other students in different dorms said they had a similar experience to Stokes’.
“My voter registration card, when I got it in the mail, said to go (to King Avenue United Methodist Church), so I just figured I’d go over there because it was only two to three blocks away from the Residence on 10th,” said Brian Loughlin, a second-year in English who lives in the Residence on 10th. “It was really so close that I didn’t mind it whatsoever … I was in and out within 10 to 15 minutes.”
Other on-campus students who voted at the Union said they didn’t know some residence halls had to go off campus to vote.
“I didn’t even know that happened. I thought everybody went to the Union,” said Danielle Zajac, a second-year in biochemistry who lives in Taylor Tower. “All of my friends, they went to the Union.”