Students speak out against polling location change

On March 19, a public hearing was held about moving Mason's polling location from University Hall to Mason Hall (photo courtesy of Fairfax County).
On March 19, a public hearing was held about moving Mason's polling location from University Hall to Mason Hall (photo courtesy of Fairfax County).

At a public hearing held by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, students spoke out in opposition to a motion that would have changed the polling location on campus from University Hall to Mason Hall.

“There were challenges with the University Hall location. We had people voting in a concession area rather than in a closed room,” said Cameron Quinn, general registrar for the county. “There have also been issues with parking over at University Hall.”

According to Quinn, the university first approached the county about a change in March, before the Republican presidential primary. The University Hall polling location was first created in 2011.

Paul Liberty, vice president of government and community relations for Mason, asked that the county defer a decision on whether the polling location should be changed.

At the March 19 hearing, two students and one community member spoke against the changes.

Donald Garrett, a student, said that the University Hall location was key to turnout in the 2012 election.

“Mason Hall isn’t really recognizable to the students…it’s not located near any university on-campus housing,” Garrett said. “It’s important to have the precinct located where people are living.”

Garrett also organized a Facebook event for students to sign a petition in opposition to the motion.

“[University Hall is] also right next to one of our main stops for the university shuttle,” Garrett said.

Megan Adamczewski, co-president of the Mason Democrats, said that many of the problems on Election Day didn’t have to do with the location, but were a result of a lack of ballots and poll workers.

“Those are two things that could be fixed at University Hall,” Adamscewski said. “We wouldn’t have to move the precinct to eliminate the congestion that the university is concerned about.”

After the public hearing, the board unanimously voted to postpone a vote on the change and to allow time for the university and students to resolve the issue.

“There are problems with the current voting location, and we do need to talk about those,” said John Cook, who represents George Mason University on the Board of Supervisors, “but certainly what we need to have is a dialogue between the university…and the students.”

Cook said the university first approached the county to postpone a decision.

In September 2012, Mason Student Government passed a resolution reaffirming their support of University Hall as the polling location on campus.

“University Hall is our newest building, it’s really recognizable to students,” said Evan Del Duke, a student senator, in an interview. “A lot of students don’t know where Mason Hall is. The change would only quell voter turnout.”

In a letter to County Supervisor John Foust, Student Body President Alex Williams wrote that students consider University Hall a convenient location.

“[University Hall] already served our community for two years and polling data collected from last year’s election suggest that 94% of voters found this location convenient,” Williams wrote. “In all, the evidence overwhelmingly points to locating the voting precinct at University Hall.”

Students and university officials will meet Friday, March 29 from 2 to 2:30 p.m. in Mason Hall to discuss the issue.

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