Election Judging at the Primaries

First of all a shout-out to Kristen. I was up before 4 a.m. yesterday, dragging my sick self out to my election gig (which lasted until nearly 10 p.m.) with a carafe of Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea (with honey). I talked the livelong day and believe it really saved my voice.

Our polling place covers four NIU (DeKalb) campus precincts.

The Disenfranchised & the Fail Safe Voters

A huge, huge problem with the students’ registrations is that they move all the time and do not think to update their voters’ registrations. Many would have been turned away yesterday for this reason except for Fail Safe. Instead of purging a registration entirely when the voter’s mailed card is returned “undeliverable,” the registration remains in the system as “suspended” (actually, they quite descriptively call it being “in suspense.”) Though the voter’s info does not appear in the rolls, a phone call to election authority headquarters confirms the old info. The voter then updates the mailing address and is entitled to vote a Federal ballot at his/her old precinct. (This is different from obtaining a Provisional ballot, in which case the voter maintains that his/her registration address is still the correct one.)

The saddest story of the day concerned the de facto disenfranchisement of a group of freshmen who had registered last fall in their dormitory cafeteria.

Yeah, here’s a WTF moment for the Wednesday after: a bunch of college freshmen “registered” in their dorm by someone who then failed to turn over the records to the County Clerk. Two of the new voters had thought to bring their receipts and they voted. Another half-dozen said they never got receipts so they could not vote.

If we could have read the “registrar’s” signature on those receipts, I believe a posse would have formed.

It reminded me of this story from 2004:

Local politicians are questioning the legality of actions taken by members of the NIU College Republicans and by Eric Johnson, the organization’s president and NIU student trustee.

In a document distributed to members of the College Republicans at an Aug. 31 meeting, organization members are instructed to offer registration forms only to students who are Republican or leaning Republican.

The document instructs members canvassing the campus to follow a prescribed conversation. Organization members are instructed to end the conversation right before they would offer a voter registration form if the student expresses a Democratic preference.

But at this point could one prefer, say, idiocy over something more nefarious? You should have seen their faces. Either way it was a crime.


Turnout in DeKalb County was the best ever for a primary and with the students it was the same. In fact, students generally voted a bit more like the rest of the county than I’ve seen before, including an almost 2-to-1 support of our most important local question, a school-building referendum.

Presidentially speaking it was lopsided. The number of Dem ballots cast were 12 times the number of GOP, and the Obama vs. Clinton results showed the same proportions in Obama’s favor. Only about 1/3 of voters who chose Dem ballots in the regular primary opted to vote also in the special primary and of those who offered reasons (we would never ask) it was lack of familiarity with that particular race.

Foster and Laesch ended in a dead heat. The students had liked Laesch last time around and I knew that he had been working the dorms so I wasn’t surprised by this result. The surprise came later, when I realized that this also reflected the larger trend in IL-14.

A Word about Poll Watchers

Parties, PACs and candidates can have poll watchers but they have to do it right. Though most were fine vis a vis documents and conduct, we had to eject a few last night for lack of proper credentials; in a couple cases they weren’t even registered voters. To the organizations that apparently pulled people off the street for the job: snag a copy of the brochure and follow the rules next time.

A Word about Obama

I’ve often described the student vote as the sleeping tiger of elections. Obama has nudged that tiger. If he succeeds in awakening it via the Dem presidential nomination, the status quo is in big trouble.