Despite strong desire to vote, some students’ absentee ballots never arrived


(Tom Wallace/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Many Northwestern students voting by mail said they never received absentee ballots, echoing a day riffled by concerns of voter suppression and difficulties.

Cassidy Wang, Reporter

Voters showed up en masse yesterday to deliver their votes in the midterm election. Record turnouts helped Democrats take control of the House and several state governments, though Republicans added to their advantage in the Senate. A sense of duty even motivated a large number of young Americans, a less active voter population, to cast their votes.

But many Northwestern students voting by mail said they never received absentee ballots, echoing a day riffled by concerns of voter suppression and difficulties.

Coming from a blue pocket in the red state of Louisiana, Weinberg senior Keaton McNamara was “very angry” to find out her absentee ballot never came in the mail.

“I don’t know specifically if it was just lost in the mail or if there were just problems with bureaucracy,” McNamara said. “But it’s already hard enough to vote in my home state and so the fact that I didn’t get my absentee ballot made it feel like they didn’t want me to vote.”

McNamara is not alone. Despite feeling a greater need to vote in this election, other students also reported not receiving their absentee ballots in the mail in time to cast their vote.

Weinberg freshman Sam Imperato also did not receive his absentee ballot in the mail. At first, he was annoyed and thought he messed up something on registration forms. But he later realized other people didn’t get theirs either.

“In New York, you can send it out the day before the election so I had hope until yesterday,” Imperato said. “Once I realized that I wasn’t going to get it yesterday it was too late to make a call to town hall and ask them to send it.”

McNamara called the voter registration office to find out the location of her ballot. The office said they would look into it but never got back to her. She also contacted her parents to see if it arrived at her home in Louisiana. It hadn’t.

“I haven’t changed addresses in the last year, so it’s a little sketchy,” McNamara said.

Being unable to vote made students reflect on problems with the voting system, like the inadequate time alloted to addressing such mailing problems.

As a first time voter, Weinberg freshman Emma Sollenberger looked forward to voting for Democrats because “Georgia doesn’t have a lot of Dems.” However, she received a call last week from a post office in Georgia saying that her ballot was returned. Frustrated, she realized the address was wrong.

Though she received her ballot yesterday, it was too late to mail the ballot, as Georgia ballots must be received by Election Day.

“It should be easier to request your ballot because I thought about doing it on my own, but I would’ve had to print out a form then mail it to Georgia, which I think is just really impractical,” Sollenberger said.

Sollenberger suggested ballots should get expedited shipping.

“The mail system is not particularly fast,” Sollenberger said. “These ballots should reach people in time and reach the state in time. If they’re treated like regular mail, that’s not going to happen.”

Many students particularly looked forward to voting this election. Although there weren’t any major seats on the ballot in Louisiana, McNamara was hoping to see a couple amendments in the state’s Constitution change. Specifically, she hoped to roll back some Jim Crow era laws that are still in place.

For Sollenberger, it especially “stung” that she couldn’t vote because she boasted about the importance of voting to a lot of her friends. She was looking forward to voting because she feels there’s been a lot of apathy with regards to voting over the past few years.

“Right now, especially with the movements of ‘March For Our Lives’ and ‘Black Lives Matter,’ I was really looking forward to contributing to this idea that voting does matter, and that voting will create change,” Sollenberger said.

However, Sollenberger encourages more people to vote. Although it didn’t turn out as Democrats hoped, she believes every election is important, even local ones.

After feeling disappointed that she wasn’t able to vote this year, McNamara said she is now more motivated to be politically active, and plans to register to vote in Illinois next election. When she goes home, she hopes to campaign for Democratic candidates who are going to be going up against more popular Republican candidates in the runoff elections.

“It sucks to feel like you couldn’t vote and participate in this day because your state prohibited you from doing so,” McNamara said. “But at the same time it kind of drives you to be more and more politically active. All that it really did was make me more motivated to change things.”

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Twitter: @cassidyw_