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Central College students turned away at polls, problem allegedly solved
Several students at Central College in Pella were not allowed to vote Tuesday due to an issue with proof of residency, a problem that a spokesman for the Iowa Secretary of State’s office says has been resolved.
Students who were hoping to register to vote at the polls, mostly new students since the last election in 2008, were told they could not vote because they were unable to provide proof of residence, according to Bonnie Dahlke, director of student involvement and orientation at Central College.
“The Secretary of State’s office won’t take our housing contract as proof of residence because it is not a lease,” she said in an e-mail. “We offered to provide an official Central College directory that includes their physical room locations and building addresses but the office won’t accept that either. Because most of our students these days do their banking and bill pay online, they never have a need to change their billing address on those items to their Pella residence because they aren’t getting paper bills via US Postal Service. That leaves them with no way of proving that they live where they live. It’s an issue that affects students on residential campuses everywhere. They just want to vote but they seem to be a forgotten population when it comes to our day-of-election voter registration.”
Jesse Harris, a spokesman for the Secretary of State, said his office has been in contact with the local county auditor, and students who were turned away will be allowed to register and vote in Pella. But Dahlke said that message has “not communicated to me nor have I heard that they have communicated it to anyone else at Central College.”
Dahlke — who said the denial could impact around 750 students who are new to campus since 2008 — is advising students to find a registered voter in the precinct to attest for them, “but it’s difficult because Precinct 4 is mostly the college and half of those 2008 registrants have since graduated and moved on.”
If students cannot find someone to attest for them, they are encouraged to fill out a provisional ballot, she said.
Student at Grinnell faced a similar problem in 2008. Around 50 student absentee ballots were challenged by Republicans because the address they listed when they registered to vote — a P.O. Box on campus where they receive mail — was not the physical address of their dormitories. However, a special precinct board later ruled the ballots would be counted didn’t change the outcome of any elections.