Hundreds of students were forced to vote provisionally after their names weren’t on voting rolls in various polling places off-campus Tuesday, PennPIRG officials confirmed.
PennPIRG Program Associate Angela Lee said that according to statistics gathered by the organization, at least 212 students near Temple had to vote provisionally. Lee said the number could be much higher, because campus organizers didn’t start logging numbers until about noon.
“At Temple alone, we’re looking at, at least 557 students who had to cast provisional ballots,” Lee said, citing polling data from eight polling places near Main Campus.
Lee said it’s unclear if all of the students who had to vote provisionally were registered, but was still shocked by the number.
“The fact that all of theses students thought they were registered and had to vote provisionally is pretty obscene,” Lee said.
Provisional votes are used to reconcile issues with registration, such as spelling of a voter’s name or voters who show up at the wrong poll location, and are typically counted at least a week after Election Day. Since the number of provisional ballots are normally negligible, provisional votes aren’t tallied until days after the election has been called.
However, polling places across the city scrambled to facilitate provisional voters at numbers that could have reached thousands, PennPIRG officials estimated. Stephanie Wein, Temple’s organizer for PennPIRG, said most polling places had to send out for additional provisional ballots, and some had to make multiple trips.
At the Norris Homes polling station at 11th and Berks streets, so many people had to vote provisionally, that the polling place was running low on provisional ballots. Mayor Michael Nutter, who had stopped by while campaigning with State Sen. Vincent Hughes for President Barack Obama, said he had to put in a call to provide that polling place with more provisional ballots.
At least 100 Temple students who registered to vote on time, filled out the proper documentation and showed up at the correct polling place were forced to vote provisionally, Wein said. Some students said they called registration offices days to weeks ahead of time and their registration in Philadelphia was confirmed, but their names didn’t appear on voting roles on Election Day.
“I saw students with registration cards that I submitted myself turned away from polling places,” Wein said. “It was not a failure of the students. It was not a failure of the registration registering them. It was a failure of the polling places.”
At polling places on 10th and Oxford streets and 16th and Berks streets, Temple students were separated into “college lines” and forced to vote provisionally. Temple students who registered properly were told at voting places surrounding Main Campus that their names weren’t on their list and that they had to fill out a provisional ballot.
Junior marketing major Shane Cohen said he was forced to vote provisionally at Amos Recreation Center on 16th and Berks streets without giving his name or offering his registration card.
“No one even asked my name or if I was registered,” Cohen said. “I said, ‘Do I go to the machine now?’ and he said, ‘No, you’re done.'”
The cause for the high number of provisionals could not be confirmed by PennPIRG officials, but Wein said the number of those forced to vote provisionally leads her to believe that there is a greater problem.
“You’re going to have students going to the wrong places and that’s what normal provisonals are for,” Wein said. “But the number of students on provisons who we know did everything right is what leads us to be pretty concerned.”
At the Norris Homes polling station, freshman business major Alli Hefflinger said she registered to vote in August, was sent a sample ballot and had been provided with a voter registration card, but still had to vote provisionally.
Many students who said they voted provisionally also admitted to registering to vote late. PennPIRG Organizing Director Vanessa Wright said the city received more than 100,000 registration forms on Oct. 9, the last day Philadelphia voters could register.
“I think what happened was that they didn’t process them fast enough,” Wright said.
The city could also not have updated its rolls after redistricting following the 2010 U.S. Census. Temple students who registered an address at 1300 or Temple Towers could have been directed to the wrong polling place, a PennPIRG press release indicated.
Wright oversaw voters at a recreation center on 10th and Oxford streets, where 176 out of 796 votes cast were provisional. Sophomore reading studies major Brianna Addison arrived at 10th and Oxford at approximately 7:30 a.m. and said she and her roommate were forced to vote provisionally.
“I thought it was a normal,” Addison said. “I didn’t realize it went down like it wasn’t supposed to.”
Sophomore film major Craig Hacker arrived at the recreation center on 10th and Oxford later in the day, when more college students were there and were voting provisionally. Hacker said he was initially told to vote provisionally, but asked poll workers to check for his name again and it was found in a different folder.
Hacker said students were asked to wait in the “college line” separate from other voters.
Freshman english major Julia Eckert showed up to vote at Penrose Recreation Center at 12th Street and Susquehanna Avenue, but voted provisionally after her name wasn’t on the registered voters list.
“He said people didn’t get processed in time,” Eckert said. “I was really mad. I didn’t even know what a provisional ballot was when I filled it out. I was really confused.”
Eckert said she registered to vote in Philadelphia on Oct. 9. Eckert called home Tuesday and her dad told her she was on the voter roll in her home town of Delaware County, Pa. Eckert called her registration manager, who said she wasn’t registered anywhere.
PennPIRG registered more than 3,500 Temple students to vote. Officials said they’re investigating why so many voters’ names weren’t on the rolls in the various polling places.
Obama carried the state of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes toward his 2012 re-election.
Joey Cranney and Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Updated: 11/7 at 11 a.m.]