Leading up to Tuesday’s midterm elections, expectations for youth turnout at USC were predictably dismal. In the last few weeks, pundits have accused youth voters of everything from crippling laziness to lack of enthusiasm to naïve assumptions that the state will fix itself.
But around campus on Tuesday, the problem was not getting students to the polls — it was accommodating them once they arrived.
Students turned up in droves to vote on and around campus; the only on-campus polling station, Marks Tower, saw 500 students filter in throughout the day. But 80 percent of Marks voters — 399 of them — filed provisional ballots. These “challenged ballots” are usually counted more than a week after the results of the elections are announced.
Though it’s understandable that students would be more likely to fill out provisional ballots than other demographics — a particularly nomadic group, we tend to change residences frequently throughout our college tenure — political groups have been canvassing campus in the last month to ensure students didn’t have to resort to this.
The USC College Democrats, for example, had reportedly registered hundreds of students to vote around campus, including more than 50 at Marks tower. But according to College Democrats officials, the majority of the registered students were not on the list, forcing those who stuck around to vote provisionally.
This isn’t the first time USC polling stations have had trouble. In 2008, approximately one-third of the registered students who showed up to Our Savior Catholic Center to cast their ballots were not listed as registered. At the time, officials attributed the probable cause of the mix-up to a recent change in the campus’ ZIP code wreaking havoc in the registrar’s office, and steps were taken to prevent another snafu.
Apparently, these steps didn’t work.
Students occupy one of the most vulnerable voting blocs — our group is often depicted as disillusioned with politics and easily dissuaded from showing up. It’s dispiriting to see our political oomph diminish because of bureaucratic gaffes.
Student political groups worked commendably to inform students of their rights and stepped in to do damage control when the system faltered, but this is a problem that now deserves attention from higher up. It’s time for the university to flex its muscle as an influential force in the city and make sure the wrinkles are smoothed out in time for the next election.
The students have done their jobs. It’s time to make sure those votes count.