Tufts ACLU chapter sends poll monitors to protect Tufts students’ right to vote

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Tufts chapter sent fourteen students to serve as poll monitors at precincts where Tufts students vote, according to Brandon Katz, the organization’s president.

Katz, a junior, said that the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life’s JumboVote Coordinator Diane Alexander (A’16) approached him with the idea late last spring. Monitors serve to protect individuals’ right to vote and Alexander said they were considered necessary because in the past, Tufts students have had trouble voting, and have even at times been turned away.

“The purpose of sending the ACLU poll monitors was to stop any issues from happening before they even occurred,” Alexander said.

Alexander said that in the past, issues often arose because students showed up to vote at the wrong precinct, as students living on-campus vote at four different locations — a number which increases to nine if those living off-campus are included.

“People don’t know where to go, and they end up going to the wrong place and say ‘Oh, why can’t I vote here?’” she said. “A lot of it is in the past the towns haven’t been equipped to handle it.”

However, she said this year voting went much smoother.

“No one was turned away,” Alexander said. “A couple people were kind of disgruntled because of the campaign rules.”

Those rules included identification requirements for first-time voters and a ban on clothes or other paraphernalia supporting a particular candidate inside the precinct.

She attributed this success to the JumboVote initiative, which expanded upon the efforts of the now-defunct Tufts Votes, a student-led group that operated last election cycle in coordinating student voting efforts.

“No one was turned away, in large part, because we had a really, really good presence,” Alexander said. “When [student voting efforts were] student run there wasn’t as much of a coordinated effort to work with the election departments.”

Katz explained that students serving as poll monitors were trained by a member from the Massachusetts branch of ACLU prior to election day to learn their rights.

However, according to ACLU Tufts chapter executive board member and junior Teddy Cahill, anyone has the right to serve as a poll monitor.

“The law says anyone can be a poll monitor,” he said. “We had a training, but if you want to poll monitor they have to let you.”

According to Katz, the first objective of a poll monitor is to observe.

“You look for any instance where if someone might be denied their right to vote, whether that [it is] because they are [being] denied a provisional ballot when they should be able to get one, or any sort of voter intimidation,” Katz said.

Katz said that they were instructed to report concerning instances to a voter hotline of the Massachusetts branch of the ACLU and could not directly intervene or talk to voters at the polls. Poll monitors could talk with voters outside of the precinct, Cahill said.

“One kid didn’t know he could get a provisional ballot, so I followed him out and told him he could get a provisional ballot,” Cahill said.

However, both Cahill and Katz said there weren’t many instances to report.

Also on hand was Tufts Assistant General Counsel Dana Fleming, who served as a poll monitor at the Medford precinct at the Gantcher Center all day.

Alexander thought voting went well overall and that JumboVote established good relationships with the community which will be positive for relationships with the community future.

“[ACLU poll monitors] did a really good job and were there to prevent any problems,” she said. “We had a good year.”

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