Students face few poll challenges

by John Mitchell and Kelsey Blodget | 11/3/04 6:00am

Democratic and Republican party challengers questioned few students' right to vote at the polls at Hanover High School Tuesday, despite reports of 500 same-day registrations and widespread speculation that challenges would be common.

In 2002, lawyers hired by the Republican Party challenged over 500 students who declared New Hampshire as their legal domicile. With polls showing the presidential race in New Hampshire to be a dead heat again this year, both Democrats and Republicans sent lawyers this year to resolve any disputes about students' domiciles.

Challengers from both parties said there were no more than five or six challenges out of about 500 voters who registered at the polls Tuesday. Most of those challenged were not students, but, rather, people who worked in New Hampshire but lived in Vermont.

"About one in 100 have something that just doesn't make sense," said Republican challenger Chuck Douglas.

Despite the challengers on hand to prevent illegitimate voting, the voting process was by no means secure. Once registered, voters encountered almost no security. They had only to approach a table, state their names "loudly and clearly," confirm that the name they had just spoken was indeed their own and that they lived at the address they provided when they registered. No form of identification was required.

On the other hand, registration seemed to be fairly well regulated. Those who registered on Election Day had to provide photo identification, and the Office of Residential Life had representatives at the polls to confirm that students claiming domicile do in fact reside in New Hampshire.

Electioneering was also closely watched. Students who entered the registration area at Hanover High to avoid the rain were asked either to remove their Kerry-Edwards stickers or to leave.

Several Hanover Police officers were on hand to ensure that everything went smoothly. The officers unanimously reported calm and orderly proceedings.

Just in case things did not go as smoothly as they did, a Washington, D.C. production company made sure to have a filmmaker on hand to document any questionable activity. Nora Jacobsen '75, a filmmaker from Norwich, Vt., whose film, "Nothing Like Dreaming," will air at the Loew Theatre Friday, responded to the nationwide call asking for filmmakers to film polling precincts in contested states.

"It's a nationwide effort to show how some people are not being allowed to vote, even though they have the right to," Jacobsen said.

Amanda Prentice '06 had registered in advance, but brought her proof of residency to the registration table just to be safe. She said she need not have bothered.

"I went in with proof of residence, but they didn't ask for it -- It was just this nice little old lady sitting behind the desk," she said.

Prentice said that all in all, the whole process went by quickly.

"The line to feed the ballot into the machine took longer than anything else," she noted.

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