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ND students, South Bend residents flood polls at JACC

Teresa Fralish | Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Election volunteer Abby Willas, a 17-year-old Mishawaka High School senior, spent her Tuesday at the Joyce Center polling place explaining the intricacies and procedures of Indiana balloting to voters – which included University President Father Edward Malloy. “I didn’t know he was the president of Notre Dame until he was at the poll,” Willas said. After Malloy walked back to the booth, the other election workers told her who she had just helped vote. “Our inspector Norma [Patton] asked to shake his hand, and I just thought he was being nice,” she said. Celebrity run-ins aside, Willis said this election sparked her interest in politics, and she felt compelled to become involved.”I wanted to volunteer for my party, and they said they needed someone to work at Notre Dame,” she said. But regardless of the voter’s affiliation, Willas and other precinct officials made sure that each person could fill out his or her ballot quickly and smoothly. “We really do protect the privacy of the voter,” precinct sheriff Donna King said. Throughout the day, poll workers saw a steady stream of Notre Dame students and South Bend residents come to cast their votes in the Joyce Center. “It’s just awesome to see. They come in with walkers and canes,” King said of elderly voters. King and her fellow election volunteers – two clerks and two vote judges – arrived at the JACC early to set up voting materials and snacks for the day. All Indiana polls were open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday. “I’ve been here since 5 a.m.,” King said. In the morning, poll workers said they saw mostly older voters, with more students showing up to vote in the afternoon. “We had the priests and brothers from Holy Cross and a few nuns,” King said. This election year, Indiana replaced its old lever-style voting machines with electronic scanners, and poll workers said they had few problems with the new ballots. “For me it seems simple,” clerk Charmaine Leinen said of the new process. “I guess either way is ok – I’m just glad we didn’t have those hanging chads.”Both Leinen and King volunteered in the midterm election two years ago and cited a general desire to serve the community as motivation. “I try to do what I can,” King said. Though the voting process went smoothly generally, King and Willas said a significant number of Notre Dame students incorrectly believed they could vote Tuesday at the Joyce Center. “There were lots of them – an unusual amount,” said King. Notre Dame students can only cast their votes in South Bend if they claim Indiana residency. Adding to the confusion, some students living off campus thought they could vote at Notre Dame when they needed to vote in other South Bend or Mishawaka precincts. Poll workers mentioned that some Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students seemed confused by e-mails sent about voting at the Joyce Center. However, voters could also cast provisional ballots that would be reviewed later on by election officials to assess their validity, according to King. “People are going to determine whether those are counted,” she said. But despite some student confusion, the Joyce Center precinct workers said they were proud to be a part of American democracy in action. “I give credit to the people who have come out to vote,” Leinen said.