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Absentee ballot error keeps dozens of students from voting

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Dozens of students have reported to campus voting initiatives that their applications for absentee voting never returned them a ballot leaving them with no way to vote in the midterm elections.

The issue gained attention within the week before the November 6th elections when about 40 students students across campus did not receive the absentee ballots that they applied for, an estimate gathered from students involved in the initiative to register and collect absentee ballots.

The application for ballots were submitted and postmarked before the deadline to do so, according to SA’s Associate Director of Civil Action Mashaal Bhatti.

It is unclear exactly how many ballots were not delivered, as the student groups and university departments did not keep official records of these figures, but students and organization leaders estimated that there were somewhere between 20 and 50 students that openly discussed being affected by this issue.

However, Bhatti and UAlbany College Democrats president Mirren Galway have said that reports of this issue from affected students indicates a widespread and pressing issue rather than a simple anomaly of a handful of students.

“I think we’re going to need to look into this further but if it’s a pattern across this campus and others it’s worth acknowledging,” Galway said. “If it’s not voter suppression I think it at least speaks to the difficulty for students to vote in elections in this country, even when they really want to.”

The university’s voter registration program was intended to provide a service to register students and apply for absentee ballots, along with voter awareness assistance.

Bhatti estimated of 1,470 students that were able to register through the initiative. Non-Capital Region students tended to apply for absentee ballots to vote in their home voting districts.

“I want to make it clear that this error is not a fault of the student groups.” Bhatti said. “These groups worked very hard to get those 1,400 students registered and it would be unfair to blame them for this error.”

However, some inconsistencies did emerge between between groups and departments of the university on how exactly the voting initiative worked.

Bhatti claimed that all absentee ballot applications were sent to New York City boards of election because the large influx of ballots may not be processed by a local board of elections.

The Center for Leadership and Services denied this, and instead provided that the ballots were sent to their designated districts.

All 5 of New York City’s borough boards of election were contacted for information, but were not able to provide a timely response.

Bhatti said that SA plans to identify where there was an issue and make sure this does not happen again.

She speculated that the problem could have stemmed from a mailroom error or a problem with the boards of election that processed the ballots.

For the students kept from voting, the error represents a missed opportunity to fulfill civic duty.

Hannah Carroll, a freshman at UAlbany from New York’s 24th congressional district, had recently turned 18 and was excited to be able to participate in the election.

“A friend of mine and I cried yesterday afternoon after making several phone calls and going to the polls because our absentee ballot never came.” Carroll explained. “We were turned away and given little to no information or guidance. We were so upset because in this political climate we knew we needed to vote; it was our civic duty.”

“I understand that a lot of New Yorkers have political beliefs that align with mine because of our highly liberal state, but I would have liked to have added my name and ballot to the list of those in support.”

 

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Phillip Downes is a student at UAlbany, Class of 2022, and the News Editor for the Albany Student Press.

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