Some students unable to participate in ’08 primaries

Super Tuesday may be just around the corner, but at least several GW students eligible to vote will be unable to do so in this year’s primaries.

These students thought they had registered to vote at a fair last fall organized by GW Votes – a student organization that aims to maximize voter turnout – but according to the students’ home election districts, they were not actually registered.

“It is annoying, especially given that this is my first time being able to vote,” said Lauren French, a freshman from New York. “And unfortunately, the way things turned out, I won’t be able to vote in the primaries. Luckily I’ll be able to vote in the presidential election, but it just really sucks when things are so close in the primaries and you’re so anxious to vote for who you support.”

GW Votes organizers said they do not know how many people were unable to register at the fair that was held on the Mount Vernon campus last fall, and that they do not know why the registration forms were not processed. Between 30 and 50 students filled out registration forms, according to organizers.

Sophomore Chloe Lew, director of GW Votes, insisted that her organization took all the right steps to get these students properly registered.

“We at GW Votes sent in the forms on Nov. 11, which gives the local governments about a month and a half to process the information for the year. Everyone should have gotten a voter registration card to confirm their registration soon after,” Lew said. “I was informed that all of the forms were filled out properly. If they weren’t, we at GW Votes called people and let them know with the contact information we had asked for.”

Many groups such as GW Votes, GW College Democrats, GW College Republicans and NAACP had booths at the fair. At the booth sponsored by GW Votes, students were offered the opportunity to fill out voter registration forms that the student organization offered to mail to the secretary of state’s office and to a student’s county or town clerk’s office.

“Basically, students headed over there for the free food. They said that if you would like to register to vote right now, they could help you out with that, and told us we could grab a hotdog or a soda,” said Sarah Hoffman, a freshman from New Mexico who is still not registered. “We went around to different tables and they gave us forms in a notebook with guidelines and information for registering for your state. And they said that they would turn the forms in for us and we’d be registered to vote.”

She continued, “I haven’t found anyone who was successful in registering at this drive. All of the people I’ve talked with who are registered either registered in their home states or at CI. All of the other students who I’ve spoken with who tried to register at the voter’s fair aren’t registered and haven’t gotten their confirmation cards yet.”

Hoffman, French and Rachel Hicks, a freshman from Texas, only recently found out they were not registered, too late for any of them to vote in their states’ primaries. After not receiving confirmation of registration for a long period of time, all three double-checked their registration status and discovered what they know now.

Lew suggested students follow up after registering. Web sites such as Votepoke.org, allow individuals to check their registration status easily.

“Especially when you’re registering out of state, I would recommend checking up on your registration,” Lew said. “It’s such a shame that you have to call your election officials after you fill out an application, but unfortunately it’s the system that we have.”

Hoffman said, “I felt like my needs weren’t met for being able to vote in the primaries, but I’m still going to vote in the (general election). I’m really glad that they at least try to get people to register to vote on campus. I just hope that in the next four years it will be more effective.”

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