Before the general election, national news reports revealed attempts to block people from voting – with new laws, ID requirements and confusing voting hours. But, in Inyo County, Clerk Kammi Foote went the distance to make sure people could vote and that students could learn about democracy firsthand in the process.
Foote reported to the Inyo Supervisors last week that she had helped a citizen file a court action to compel her to let him vote. Foote explained that a local man called her and said he had registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles but that his registration apparently was not sent by DMV to the Clerk’s Office. Foote said a check with DMV confirmed that the man had filled out a registration form.
Clerk Foote said she told the man to file in Superior Court compelling her to register him. It worked. Foote said she wants citizens to know that this is an option if they have taken steps to register but registration was not completed.
An article on the website, California Watch, says that others have had problems with registration through DMV. The article says Sonoma County registrars “are all too familiar with the problem. According to the article, registrars “hear from a smattering of frustrated citizens who tried to register at the DMV only to find themselves ineligible to vote.”
The California Watch report says Sonoma County had 25 applications for court orders to vote this year. Santa Cruz County had about 60, mostly from people who tried to register at DMV offices. Clerk Foote said this year it seems that in Inyo, poll workers heard more about problems registering with DMV.
And, one more way to open the door to the ballot box this year. Clerk Foote said that she and her workers made ballot call buttons available to those who were disabled or could not access the polls. She said one voter was dropped off by Dial-a-ride, was not able to enter the polls but pressed the button and poll workers made it possible for that citizen to vote in the parking lot.
Finally, another program opened the door to qualified high school students to become poll workers. The Clerk sent letters to school government classes with strict requirements – including a good grade point average, good behavior, citizenship and parental permission.
Clerk Foote wanted students to learn about democracy first hand and about voters’ rights. Five students worked polls in Bishop – one of them was from Owens Valley School – and one student worked Lone Pine polls. They were trained, and Clerk Foote said the feedback about the student workers was “very positive.”