Residence life staff struggles with complicated voter registration

Emily Lin-Jones

Illustration: Emily Johnson

With Walla Walla County election day rolling around on Feb. 14, residents of the Whitman campus who want to register to vote locally may be in for a confusing experience.

Although many students opt to register to vote in their home counties, some on campus have experienced issues trying to register using the college’s address. Resident Director Anastasia Zamkinos reported having difficulties registering while working as a resident director for College House, Douglas Hall and Marcus House.

“When I went to change my driver’s license to Washington from Arizona, I checked the box that said I wanted to change my voter registration at the same time. I listed 280 Boyer since that was my most consistent address while at Whitman,” she said in an email. “I got a big mailing back from the state saying that the school address wasn’t valid for registering to vote, it had to be a residential address.”

Zamkinos eventually found a way around this problem once she became a director for the Interest House Community, which has a common residential and mailing address. Still, she says, the issue could be a roadblock for students or resident directors living in the dorms who want to register in Walla Walla.

“At best, I think it’s a really counterintuitive process that could be discouraging for several voters,” she said.

Justin Daigneault, resident director of Lyman Hall, noted that the problem of students voting locally remains a contentious issue in college towns, especially those with relatively small populations.

“I think it is a good thing for everyone to vote and have a say in the community they are a part of, even in a town you may only be spending part of your life in, however I don’t think it is helpful to drastically change the climate of a town through a temporary population,” he said in an email.

According to Walla Walla County Auditor Karen Martin, students may register to vote in Walla Walla using the physical address of their dormitory, instead of the 280 Boyer mailing address.

“[Students] have to use their physical address on campus, like which house [or dormitory] they’re in,” said Martin. “They need to be aware that by registering, that makes them a citizen of Washington state and Walla Walla county, and that could change the way they’re registered in the school.”