Quad day voter registration not valid

By Amanda Reavy

Approximately 300 students who registered to vote at the College Democrats’ booth on Quad Day filled out invalid voter registration forms. The College Democrats are working with Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden to notify these students and correct the error.

Members of the College Democrats met with Shelden Monday to determine how the invalid forms will be handled. Students who improperly registered will be contacted by Shelden’s office through the mail about how they can properly register.

The mix-up occurred because of an August 2003 law requiring voter registration forms to include a box indicating United States citizenship, Shelden said. The old forms included the citizenship requirement in fine print, he said.

The student organization was using a mixture of forms from Shelden’s office and Motor Voter forms from districts outside Champaign County, said Laura Pizarek, College Democrats voter registration co-chair and senior in applied life sciences. Motor Voter forms are available at driver’s license, public assistance and disability agencies as a more convenient way for people to register to vote. However, the Motor Voter forms used on Quad Day lacked the new citizenship question.

Shelden alerted the College Democrats to the problem during Quad Day, said Justin Cajindos, College Democrats member and sophomore in LAS. They immediately pulled the faulty forms. Around 1,200 students registered to vote with the correct forms, he said.

Erin Janulis, College Democrats president and senior in LAS, said members did not realize there was a problem with the old forms because they were considered valid during their registration drives before the last primary election. When Janulis learned of the mix-up, she said she was very concerned.

“We take pride in making sure our forms get in on time and are handled properly,” she said. “It is a big priority.”

Shelden said his office has had problems in the past with non-citizens registering to vote and the new forms prevent such mistakes.

Although the new requirements had been in place for over a year, Shelden’s office continued to accept the old forms until before the last primary election.

“That is the primary source of the confusion,” Shelden said. “That was the error on the part of our office.”

All of the people who improperly registered through the College Democrats will receive a form in the mail allowing them to declare their citizenship, Janulis said. There are three different ways students will be able to get this form back to the county clerk’s office: Students may return the form by fax, by mail or by logging on to the county clerk’s Web site, www.champaigncountyclerk.com. Once Shelden’s office receives the extra form, the student will be properly registered.

The College Democrats will also be sending e-mails alerting students who will be contacted by Shelden’s office.

“We’ve set up a system with Shelden’s office in which we can track how many students return their forms and who needs reminders,” Janulis said.

Shelden said he told the College Democrats that his office will supply all the voter registration forms the organization may need in the future to prevent a similar problem. He also offered to volunteer to come to campus once a week and pick up the forms himself so they may be speedily processed.

“I will also be available to answer any questions so there is no confusion,” he said. “I am going to support any organization that gets students to vote.”

Ashley Essig, sophomore in LAS, was one student who registered to vote at the College Democrats table. She said she registered to vote at their table because of the convenience.

“It’s kind of upsetting that the form might not count,” she said. However, Essig said she would re-register if the College Democrats provided another opportunity to register on campus.

The College Democrats will have a table on the Quad to register more students to vote every weekday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until the Oct. 5 voter registration deadline, Cajindos said. The group is also in the process of establishing a registration schedule for students in residence halls.

“Voter registration is a huge part of what we do,” Cajindos said. “I’m confident that everyone on this campus who wants the chance to vote will have the opportunity to register.”