UCSD’s Election Day Plagued with Unusual Voting Problems

Photo source: iStock/hermosawave

Election Day at UC San Diego may not have seen a 78 percent voter turnout, but voters at UCSD witnessed other unusual occurrences take place, including a widespread lack of ballots at the polls and an unannounced closing of a traditional mail ballot drop-off location.

Lack of Ballots

Four polling locations at UCSD ran out of English ballots by late afternoon. In the Mariposa Room, the polling location for Muir College, student poll worker Chris Doherty reported that English and Spanish ballots had run out by 2:40 p.m. The location received 50 more English ballots just 30 minutes before the polls closed at 8:00 p.m. Student poll workers also reported that the Sixth College polling location ran out of English ballots by approximately 4:50 p.m. The Price Center polling location, which only accepted provisional and absentee voting, ran out of provisional ballots by 6 p.m., and The Village polling site only had Korean ballots available for students by 6:30 p.m.

First year Noah Nadeu was forced to vote in Chinese. “I got a mail-in ballot but it was in Chinese and I was a little confused at first. I then went to the Sixth College polling location to try and get a ballot in English but they had run out, so I had to use an English voting guide to translate and then vote on the ballot in Chinese.”

Another first year, Priscilla Ramos, had very recently turned 18. She planned on registering and voting on Election Day at The Village polling site, since California voter law allows same-day registration. But when she arrived at her polling location in The Village, she learned that the location had run out of English provisional ballots and she would need to go to the Price Center location instead. There, she was was told Price Center had also run out of the ballots and redirected once again to a government polling place. Ramos was not told which government polling places would accept her, and she did not have transportation to get to such a location. 

She ended up not casting a vote on Election Day. “It was frustrating because I felt that being a California resident, I should’ve been able to register and vote the same day, and if it was an official polling place, I should’ve been able to do that,” Ramos said.

Closing of drop-off site

One significant difference in voting this year at UCSD, compared to the last midterm election, was the unannounced closing of the mail-in ballot drop-off site usually located in Price Center. The drop-off site had been set up at Price Center since the 2016 primary election to accommodate vote-by-mail voters who wished to drop off their ballots prior to Election Day. The drop-off site gained popularity during the 2016 general election among UCSD students, faculty, and staff.

“The drop off location was essentially UCSD’s only feasible early-vote method that didn’t require students to pay to use, since mail ballots have required postage,” said former Director of the Student Organized Voter Access Committee (SOVAC) Liam Barrett, who oversaw the drop-off location in past years.

According to Barrett, when SOVAC contacted the San Diego Registrar of Voters (ROV) this year regarding the drop-off location, the ROV informed them that it would not set up a drop-off location at Price Center this year. Furthermore, it would be closing multiple drop-off locations around San Diego.

The San Diego ROV claimed on Twitter that the closing of UCSD’s drop-off location was due to low usage, tweeting, “Students weren’t using the previous drop-off sites there.”

However, reports from the San Diego ROV show that the UCSD drop-off location had consistently received hundreds of mail-in ballots every election, with 473 ballots in the 2016 election, 436 in the 2014 midterm, and 395 in the 2012 election, presenting a clear trend of increasing voter turnout every election. For comparison, the San Diego State University (SDSU) drop-off location received similar ballot numbers, with 523 ballots in the 2016 election, 487 in the 2014 midterm, and 450 in the 2012 election. Unlike UCSD, the SDSU drop-off location remained open this Election Day.

After Barrett’s and Associated Students of UCSD Vice President Caroline Siegel-Singh’s exchange with the ROV on Twitter, Assemblymember Todd Gloria contacted the ROV and discussed ways to ensure that the drop-off location would be re-installed at Price Center for the 2020 election.

This year, Price Center facilitated provisional and absentee voting instead of an early voting period.

Anabel King is the Assistant Managing Editor for The Triton. Staff Writer Tajairi Neuson also contributed to this article. You can follow them at @anabelkingg and @tajairi, respectively.

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