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Some students experience ID problems at polls

Aaron Steiner | Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Students made their way to the polls Tuesday at Legends of Notre Dame, where Norman Chadwick, Precinct Director, said a steady stream of people voted throughout the day.

“There were about 14, 15 people in line at 6 a.m.,” Chadwick said, and while there were rarely lines, “all six booths [were] always full.”

“There’s never been a time when there’s no voters in those booths,” he said around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Most voters cast their ballots successfully, but election officials and volunteers at the polling location said some encountered problems stemming from misunderstandings because of Indiana’s regulations about proper identification needed to vote.

“The law is strict and clear that you need a federal or Indiana-issued ID to vote in Indiana,” said Mark Fennel, a law student volunteering at the polls.

John Lehner, Precinct Sheriff for the district that includes Notre Dame’s campus, said by 4 p.m., around 45 to 50 people had encountered problems with having insufficient identification, with many students bringing out of state IDs.

Fennel said that he encountered one student who was misinformed by officials about regulations regarding identification.

“There was one student who actually called the county registration office, and the county actually told him that a Texas ID would work with a proof of residency,” Fennel said. “So that was frustrating, because he actually called, and they told him wrong information.”

The situation especially affects students from out of state, Fennel said.

“It’s a pretty targeted law,” he said.

Many were discouraged by the situation, Fennel said, but Lehner said only a few voters became particularly irritated.

“This one girl, she left here with big crocodile tears,” Lehner said, after the girl was not able to cast her first vote after turning 18.

Lehner said there are a few ways to fix the problem. Voters can get the proper ID – or a copy of the ID – or obtain an Indiana issued ID card at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles by surrendering an out of state driver’s license. If identification cannot be obtained, citizens do have the option of filling out a provisional ballot.

“I try to give them as many options as possible,” Lehner said. “I just want to see them vote.”

Lehner said of the 40-plus people with improper identification, he estimated that only six to eight people were turned away. Fennel said more than 20 people filled out provisional ballots.

“Most of them came back with proper ID,” Lehner said.

Provisional ballots are not counted on Election Day, and the voter must go to the county election board within 10 days with proper identification to get their ballots counted.

“The provisional balloting procedure is complex. You really don’t want to vote provisional if you can possibly help it,” Chadwick said.

Colin Fath, a Notre Dame senior, said he had to fill out a provisional ballot and couldn’t get necessary identification in time to vote with a regular ballot.

“I didn’t have an Indiana issued ID, so [they] wouldn’t accept my Michigan driver’s license,” he said. “I did go down to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles … and the only thing they could do in time is give me a photo ID there.

“Unfortunately if I did that, I had to surrender my license, and I couldn’t have driven myself home.”

Fath said he does not have a passport or any other form of federal identification.

This isn’t the first time Fath has had problems voting.

“My initial thought was actually ‘not again,’ ” he said. Fath said that Michigan residents are not allowed to vote absentee in their first election, which prevented him from voting in a previous election. Fath thought he would be able to vote in person in Indiana after registering, but he was unaware of the ID regulations.

“I hadn’t thought about it. If I really had paid attention, I probably would have read [about it],” he said.

Freshman Mike Della Penna said he was fully aware of the laws about identification, but there was simply no way for him to get proper identification in time.

Della Penna, originally from Illinois, said he registered in Indiana and attempted to get an Indiana-issued ID over fall break, but was unable to without surrendering his Illinois state driver’s license.

“That’s the only way … but I don’t want to do it, because my drivers license is hooked up to my bank accounts [and car insurance],” Della Penna said.

He came to the polls Tuesday expecting to have problems voting.

“I figured I’d at least go over there and try,” he said.

After discussing the problems and “pleading his case,” he walked out of the poll after filling out a provisional ballot.

In researching the issue, Della Penna said he found Indiana has some of the strictest laws about voter identification.

Freshman Raymond Fagan said he wasn’t on the list of registered voters when he went to the poll Tuesday, which led him to fill out a provisional ballot.

“I registered in Indiana, and I mailed it in on the date of the deadline,” he said, but his registration material wasn’t received in time.

Fagan said he was still “definitely” going to go in to try to get his provisional ballot counted.

“I just want to get my vote counted,” he said.