Registration mix-up causes confusion for first time voters in Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A concerned parent reached out to 8News after her daughter was told she wasn’t allowed to vote.

“They didn’t even offer a provisional ballot they just said she couldn’t vote,” said Pamela Smith.

Voting for the first time can be an intimidating experience. Many first time voters are not aware of their rights as a voter and are not familiar with the process at the polls, and that confusion can cause major problems on Election Day.

Pamela Smith said she couldn’t believe what happened to her daughter Tuesday night when she went to vote for the first time.

“She said ‘well mom, they said I can’t vote.’ I said ‘What you mean you can’t vote?’ From that point on I called the 1-800 number and I let them talk to the voters registration,” explained Pamela Smith. “The lady told her that she was supposed to fill out a provisional ballot and it’s up to the court on whether it’s validated or not.”

Smith’s daughter was a student at Old Dominion University, so in addition to registering in Richmond, she also applied to register in Norfolk. According to Smith, her daughter only received voter information for Richmond so they didn’t think there would be a problem when she went to the polls on Election Day.

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“She has all her proof that she’s registered to vote in the city of Richmond: Her voter card, her I.D., everything,” said Smith.

8News reached out to the state board of elections who said you are only able to be registered in one locality and it will be in the most recent city where you’ve registered.

But Ravi Perry, an associate professor of political science at VCU said many college voters can be easily confused by the registration process.

“It’s a lot of issues at play,” said Ravi Perry. “One problem for students is that many of them simply don’t know the system.”

Perry said it’s a shared responsibility for the board of elections to inform first-time voters of the rules and for the students to seek out that information.

He also said political science professors should make an extra effort.

“Go beyond just the theory and the classroom instruction to ensure that their students are getting the information that they need to actively participate in the process,” said Perry. “If they do that, we find that college students actually participate in high numbers.”

The state board of elections also said that it’s important for all voters to double check their registration information prior to Election Day.

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