Only Students Registered at Their Current Campus Address Can Vote at the University Precinct in Merten Hall
By: Meg Thornberry, Mason Votes 2021 Online Editorial Team
In 2020, 71.8 percent of Mason students voted, significantly more than the 66 percent national average, according to a recent study conducted by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE).
However, 35 of those students found themselves casting provisional ballots, used to record a vote whose eligibility is in question, because they tried to vote at Merten Hall despite not being registered to vote there.
Provisional ballots are provided to voters whose name doesn’t appear on the rolls when they show up to vote or are unable to provide identification. All provisional ballots are counted in Virginia, but take longer to be processed because they are reviewed by local election boards to confirm eligibility.
“It’s always been an issue for students, because they often forget where they are registered to vote. And the only place that they can vote is where they’re registered,” said Scott Konopasek, Fairfax County’s general registrar. “Students are often still registered at their parents’ address, even if they may not be there, or they may be registered on campus.”
Verify Your Assigned Polling Location Before Election Day
Only students registered at their current campus address may vote at the University Precinct located in Merten Hall on Mason’s Fairfax campus. All other Mason students and faculty must vote at their registered home precincts, either inside the county, within the Commonwealth, or in their home state.
Konopasek stressed that students should look up their voter registration on the Virginia State Board of Elections website to be absolutely certain they are voting somewhere they know their ballot will be counted.
Students who are registered to vote in another state can still drop off their absentee ballot on Election Day, but it is too late to apply for one. Mail-in ballots can also be dropped off at any polling place.
What to Expect on Election Day
After in-person voters confirm they are at the right place, they are checked in by a poll worker and given a ballot permit, which they take to another table to get the ballot itself.
“Marking a ballot is just like a Scantron—bubbling in the ovals for your choices. After marking their ballot, the voter takes it to the DS200 ballot scanner, where another poll worker is available to help them,” Fairfax County election official and Mason public administration student Jean Thoensen said in an email.
“The ‘I Voted’ stickers are back, much to the voters’ delight!” Thoensen said in an email.
Who Are All Those People Outside My Polling Place?
Political campaigns often hand out sample ballots showing voters what they would like them to check on their ballots. Virginia law requires that anyone trying to convince people to vote for a specific candidate, or electioneering, must stay at least 40 feet away from the entrance to any polling place, so voters may bring these sample ballots inside with them, but no other campaign or promotional materials.
“Nobody outside is part of my office. They’re political parties, so I have no control over what they tell you, or what they ask you, or how they use any information that they’re given. Or the accuracy or dependability of any information they provide you,” Konopasek said.
Voters are allowed to bring cell phones into polling places, and they can take photos of their own ballots, but of nothing else inside of the polling location. Still, it might be better to wait until after voting to snap a selfie.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 2nd!
If you haven’t already done so, make a plan to VOTE!
Photo by: Alexis Glenn/Creative Services