USG Senate passes resolution to waive fee for absentee ballots

USG Senate voted Tuesday to pass a resolution that asked the USC Credit Union to waive a fee associated with students registering for absentee ballots. (Aamani Ponnekanti | Daily Trojan)

At Tuesday’s Undergraduate Student Government meeting, Sen. Michaela Murphy introduced a resolution she co-authored with USG Director of External Affairs Alec Vandenberg to help out-of-state students vote with absentee ballots.

Several states currently require voters to get their absentee voting ballots notarized, or verified. USC Credit Union offers this service for $10, according to Murphy. The resolution asked USC Credit Union to work with USG to waive the notarization fee.

“This $10 fee creates a potential barrier for out-of-state students to be able to exercise their fundamental, democratic right to vote,” the resolution stated.

It also noted that only 21 percent of eligible 18-to 24-year-old students voted in the last midterm election.

Murphy and Vandenberg said they found out about the $10 notarization fee last Friday and immediately began authoring the resolution. After the resolution passed unanimously, Vandenberg and Murphy asked the Senate for $300 to cover a portion of absentee ballot notarizations.

Murphy said she doubts there will be enough time between the resolution’s passing and the upcoming midterm elections for any policy changes to be established. Because the notarization fees will likely not be waived for this election, the $300 Murphy requested will help cover 30 students’ notarization fees before the absentee voting deadline, depending on the state of residence.

“The long-term ask is to continue collaboration with USC Credit Union to try to fully waive this fee in 2020,” Murphy said.

Sen. Jacquelyne Tan was concerned that the senate fund is not the appropriate place to draw money for subsidizing the notarization fees because this incurred fee does not affect international students. The fund, she said, should go toward initiatives that benefit all students.

“International students pay to this fund,” Tan said. “It’s meant to be for programming or initiatives that are open to all students, but this isn’t.”

Mae Gates, a sophomore majoring in public policy, defended the use of the senate fund to subsidize notarization fees.

“By giving these funds to ensure that all eligible students are able to vote back in their home states, you’re also empowering international students, because the things we’re voting on right now in the United States affect literally everyone who exists in these lands,” Gates said.

Murphy also said that historically, the senate fund goes to just a few people and that this allocation would be a significant improvement.

“I know that in the past, this money really has been spent on one or two people going to conferences,” Murphy said. “That really didn’t help with outreach. It really didn’t help with getting everybody supported with the fund from Senate.”

After the discussion, the Senate approved the $300 allocation unanimously.

Vandenberg said he hopes that even if the USC Credit Union does not waive the notarization fee this year, a better policy will be in place for the 2020 elections.

“What give us hope is at least we’re starting the dialogue,” Vandenberg said. “At the very least, in future election years we won’t have to [have] these barriers and challenges.”