Iowa's out-of-state college students face voting challenges
Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -
Some first-time voters in Dubuque faced a challenge Tuesday night when trying to cast their ballots.
At Dubuque's ninth and tenth precincts' polling place at Westminster Presbyterian Church, hundreds of students came out to cast a vote for the first time in their lives. The two precincts encompass the city's three major colleges: University of Dubuque, Loras College and Clarke University.
21-year-old Delaney Ludwig, a senior at Loras College, did not get to vote.
"I'm a little upset," she said. "I know that it's, you know, my fault that I waited until last minute to register and everything like that and especially with it so hard out of state."
She, like many Dubuque students, is from out of state and also tried registering to vote on Election Day.
According to Iowa code, students in her situation must present to election officials a valid photo ID such as a driver's license plus proof of residency, which could be a formally addressed piece of mail such as a bank statement or utility bill.
"I had two payroll stubs...and then a letter that someone sent me with my address here for the school mailbox," Ludwig said, describing what she brought to the polling site on Tuesday. "I thought out of those three things, something would have to work to prove that I was living here at Loras, or in Dubuque as a Loras student."
Those pieces of mail, however, were not valid. The stubs had her Illinois address and the letter's address was handwritten. Ludwig said all the mail she had was no more official than that.
"I explained that we don't get any utility bills and stuff, since it's Loras-owned apartments and we live on campus," Ludwig said, "so we wouldn't have any access, especially the day of."
Iowa code allows, instead of a piece of mail, a voter registered in the same precinct to vouch for the registrant, saying he or she does, indeed, live in that precinct. Ludwig, however, couldn't find such a person at short notice.
Dubuque County auditor Denise Dolan said the proof of residency requirements end up disenfranchising some students.
"If they're in a dorm, they're not having utilities. Their cell phones are probably still paid for by their folks and going to their home address and that kind of stuff, so it's really hard for them to come up with that second piece of identification," she said. "I've encouraged other students that I've talked to, to take this on to the Legislature and say, 'You're disenfranchising us and, you know, there needs to be some accommodation for students who live in the dorms.'"
Ludwig and others like her should have been able to cast a provisional ballot, Dolan said. Those weren't counted Tuesday night but will be reviewed on Friday at 10 a.m. People who cast provisional ballots have until then to provide proof of voter eligibility to the county auditor's office. That's on the fourth floor of the Dubuque County Courthouse.
On Tuesday night, election officials at the tenth precinct said they were swamped with voters all day, many of whom were students.
A group of Republican poll watchers camped out at the polling site to ensure students like Ludwig used proper ID. A group of Democratic poll watchers were there, too, to help fight any unnecessary barriers to voting.
Between its more than 30 precincts, Dubuque County had approximately 150 provisional ballots.
There's no way of knowing just how many students left without casting any vote at all.
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