Many Voters Turned Away At Polls After Registration Snafus

This story was written by Ben Kruger-robbins, The Daily Free Press
Though last week's primaries brought more than 30 percent of registered voters to the ballot, some poll workers said more citizens could have been included in the democratic process if technical problems at polling places had been resolved.

Poll workers filed complaints after unprecedented numbers of voters were turned away in various precincts for a long list of reasons: misspelled names on registration lists, improper forms of voter identification and faulty documentation by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Luisa Pena, coalition organizer for MassVOTE and precinct supervisor for Ward 8, Precinct 3 in Boston, said about 25 people were turned away from her voting station because their names were not on the registration list.

"Names weren't spelled right, people weren't processed and some simply didn't register in time," she said. "The situation was upsetting."

Pena said some voters could not vote for their candidate of choice because of party affiliation, and this restriction turned them off to the entire voting process.

"In this election there are candidates who really transcend party lines, but the state government really doesn't acknowledge that," she said. "Many people just left instead of sticking to those boundaries."

Another poll worker, who spoke anonymously because of her professional ties to City Hall, cited more specific concerns that arose on primary day.

"I heard continuously that people who recently registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles and had moved here from out of state were never documented and placed on our lists," she said. "They were notified that they either had to go back to their state of origin to vote or not vote at all."

She said she kept track of the number of calls about citywide voting problems and said she personally talked to about 50 people last week.

"That's a lot of angry people," she said. "The whole thing was overwhelming and, frankly, disconcerting."

Brain McNiff, spokesman for Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, said such problems at the polls are common in every election.

Voters call in to file complaints after the fact, but the reasons people are turned away from the polls is "legitimate," he said.

McNiff said some voters thought they registered to vote when they applied for a Massachusetts driver's license. Others thought their home state registration would carry over to Massachusetts, he said.

"I understand the anger and annoyance that comes with the territory," McNiff said. He said because of such reactions, the department offers provisional ballots for voters.

Steph Gottsch, Boston University College Democrats member and BU for Barack Obama president, said in a race that has some candidates are so closely matched for delegates, every vote counts.

"My reaction, first and foremost, is utter disbelief," said Gottsch. "When you think of how those votes could have tallied up in candidates' columns, the whole ordeal is shameful."
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