Election crime deprives at least one student vote

Tony Gorder

Tony GorderEditor-in-Chief

Five people were possibly denied the right to vote on Election Day after someone from a student-run registration drive failed to turn in voter registration forms on time.

The Brookings County Finance Office received an envelope on Oct. 20 with a return address of simply “SDSU.” The envelope contained nine voter registration forms that were past the registration deadline, according to Brookings County Deputy Finance Officer Stacy Steffensen.

South Dakota State Law states registration forms must be turned in within 10 days of when they are filled out. The forms received by the county were dated Sept. 23 8212; several weeks past the deadline, which is a Class 2 Misdemeanor.

Four of the nine people whose forms were sent past deadline went to vote early on Sept. 29 and 30. The error was noticed, and they were re-registered. Five, however, were never registered. Three of the five non-registrants could not be reached. It’s unclear if they attempted to vote.

Tiffany Krause was one of those five that was not registered. On Nov. 2, she did not get to vote.

According to Krause, she registered with a group supporting Initiated Measure 13, the South Dakota Medical Marijuana Act.

Official Union reservation forms obtained by The Collegian revealed Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and Campus Women’s Coalition were the only groups registering voters on The Union Main Street on Sept. 23.

Lindsay Uhrich was also one of the five students who was not registered. Although she couldn’t remember which group she registered with, she said it was on The Union Main Street by the SDSU Bookstore.

Students for a Sensible Drug Policy’s table was labeled Area 8, which 8212; between the two groups 8212; is closest to the SDSU Bookstore, located directly between the bookstore and eSDSU Laptop Center. The Campus Women’s Coalition was at Area 9, which is located right next to Area 8, closer to the Information Exchange.

Officer Darin Haider, investigator for the Brookings County Sheriff’s Department, said he is working to find the person directly responsible for the crime.

“I haven’t narrowed it down to exactly which group,” Haider said. “I’m not looking to charge a specific group of people or a person in charge of a group of people. I’m looking for the person that mailed these applications in.”

Melissa Beadle, president of Students for A Sensible Drug Policy, said she and the other groups in The Union shared duties in taking in registration forms to the Brookings County Courthouse.

“I didn’t take responsibility for getting the voter registration forms to the courthouse,” Beadle said. “I should’ve taken I bigger role. I always trust someone else (from either Students for a Sensible Drug Policy or other organizations registering voters) to get the registration forms to the courthouse.”

Molly Miles, president of the Campus Women’s Coalition, said they handed their forms off to another group. Though, like Beadle, she was unsure of exactly what group.

Other groups on campus registered voters as well, but not on the day in question. Eric Haiar, SA state and local chair, said SA was responsible for their voter information forms when they registered voters.

Hassan Ali, vice president of College Democrats, said they also were responsible for their own forms as well.

The problem, according to both Haider and Beadle, was organization.

“One central person needs to be responsible for [registration forms],” Steffensen said. “That should be stressed going into the registration drive.”

Although the crime is the equivalent to a speeding ticket, “It’s serious to the person that can’t vote,” Haider said. “It’s unfortunate …”

Krause said she isn’t upset anymore, although she was frustrated on Election Day.

“I thought voting wouldn’t be a problem,” she said. “I wish that one person would have been more responsible.”

Steffensen stressed the importance of taking responsibility for an issue as important as voting.

“I don’t want to discourage people from holding registration drives,” Steffensen said, “but you have to realize that those people are putting their voter registration 8212; their voting ability 8212; in your hands thinking you’re going to those forms where they need to be.”

Beadle said she felt badly about the entire situation.

“My deepest apologies to [Krause] and anyone else,” Beadle said. “It’s horrible. We don’t want students to lose faith in registering to vote on campus. We want it to be credible.”

Beadle encouraged students to continue to register early and on campus for 2012 election.

“We’re going to be more organized next time,” she said.

Krause has her doubts.

“In the future, I am very hesitant to register with a student group on campus,” she said. “I don’t know if I’d do that again.