The fiasco over provisional votes on campus cheapened the experience for first-time voters.
Even though President Obama won a decisive victory — every vote should matter. Every registered voter should have a say.
Yesterday, over 200 voters were forced to cast provisional ballots at on-campus locations because their names did not appear on voter rolls. Some who encountered a similar problem were simply turned away.
It remains unclear why so many people were prevented from voting. The Committee of Seventy, an independent watchdog group, offers one explanation. It reports that 41,000 voters, who registered late in the season, may not have had their names processed in time for them to receive voter registration cards or for their names to appear on voter rolls. This backlog was the result of an inexcusable oversight.
This voting fiasco calls for an extensive investigation. In order to rectify the problem, the city commissioners must do more to streamline the voting process and improve its transparency. They must do more to make sure conscientious citizens — those who register to vote — can exercise their right to cast a real ballot.
The problems at polls were especially discouraging since we had fought hard to defeat Pennsylvania’s voter identification laws. Provisional ballots — which are not counted until days or weeks after the election — cheapened the efforts of voters and denied some first-time voters from participating fully in the election.
On campus, Penn Democrats did a commendable job of helping students who encountered difficulties at the polls. In addition to manning the booths, members of Penn Dems offered advice through social media and email listervs. The College Republicans, however, were nowhere to be seen.
But voter disenfranchisement reaches across party lines. The responsibility to clarify and offer voting-related help to students during confusing times should have fallen upon the nonpartisan get-out-the-vote student group Penn Leads the Vote.
Amid the chaos, some voting locations on campus required students to be on the voting roll in order to cast a ballot while others relied on online databases. Inconsistencies between polling places led to unfair policies that prevented some students from voting while enabling others. It inserted an unnecessary source of randomness into a process that lies at the cornerstone of the American democracy. These inconsistencies make it clear that more must be done to unify voting practices around campus and across the state.
Voting shouldn’t be an uphill battle. It should be an easy process — one that unites the country and invites everyone to have a say.
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