Varying Absentee Ballot Rules Confuse Young George Washington U. Voters

This story was written by Geoffrey Middleberg, The GW Hatchet


Receiving and mailing absentee ballots this election has become a frustrating process for several George Washington University students as they navigate through confusing rules with little help from a student group that assisted in the past.GW Votes, which previously helped students register to vote and obtain absentee ballots, has all but disappeared from campus this year."We had a plan similar to 2004, where we were going to have rallies, kick-off events and banners, but the plan never came into action," said Bernard Demczuk, faculty adviser to GW Votes. "If the organization had wanted, I would have gotten them help from the administration and support from the candidates themselves."Students like sophomores Jill Mador and Jill Gershenson said they are unsure about absentee ballot deadlines and whether their vote will even count."I think I have until Election Day to mail my ballot," Mador said while standing in J Street this week."No, I thought it had to be in by Oct. 28," Gershenson replied. After a brief discussion, they realized that their states had different rules."I have heard things that lessen my confidence that my vote will be counted," Mador said. "I have heard that they only count absentee ballots if the election is close."Demczuk said he was not worried that students would lack the resources necessary to register and cast their votes."GW students are a very strong, politically sophisticated and committed student body and that is why they will take care of voting all by themselves," he said, pointing to the efforts of the College Democrats, College Republicans, GW NAACP and the Black Student Union to register voters for this election.Nancy Haaga, managing director of campus and support services, said the university has tried to communicate with students about voting absentee. She noted two e-mails sent to the student body on Oct. 7 and Oct. 13 regarding the delivery of absentee ballots."This message provided information about the timely processing and delivery of student mail to student residence hall mailboxes," Haaga said. "It explained that incoming mail with complete and accurate addresses will be delivered into students' residence hall mailboxes within 24 hours of receipt from the United States Post Office."Other schools in the area still have organizations that help students vote.At Georgetown, GU Votes '08 is not only registering people to vote and helping them vote absentee, they are also holding bipartisan panels on issues, including a forum on climate change.At Maryland, the Coalition for Civic Engagement and Leadership, a group of students trying to increase student engagement on Maryland's campus, has TerpsVote to register voters and help them cast their absentee ballots. Their Web site includes a list of issues and where each candidate stands, a frequently asked questions section about voting and how to get involved in the election.Junior Nick Confer said he would have appreciated an organization to help him with the smaller logistics of voting absentee.He said, "I just want an organization that would give me a stamp to mail my ballot. That way I don't have to buy one myself."
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