For first-year political science major Ashwin Shenoy, the end of Election Day was met with frustration — not because his preferred candidates lost, but because he did not get the chance to cast his vote at all.
Shenoy sent in his absentee ballot request to his hometown of Cary, Illinois in mid-October to allow enough time to receive his ballot before Election Day. As the days counted down, he became more anxious but did not give up hope. Even on Election Day, he checked his mailbox multiple times in hopes it would arrive before the polls closed.
“I checked around 8:00 p.m., and it still was not there,” said Shenoy. “Then, maybe around 8:30 p.m., my buddy came to my door and said ‘Hey, look what I just got? My absentee ballot.’ So I went and checked, and it was there.”
Jeremiah Grimm, a first-year supply chain and operation management major, had a similar voting experience this year. Grimm sent in his absentee ballot application to Kent, Ohio the week of Oct. 21, but did not receive his ballot until 4:00 p.m. on Election Day.
He could have potentially filled out and returned his ballot before the polls closed, but Grimm had just returned from casting a provisional ballot in Butler County at Oxford’s Shriver Center polling location when he received his absentee ballot.
Both students’ absentee ballots were postmarked Oct. 30, meaning they spent a total of seven days in transit.
“I don’t know how that did not get here on time when my grandma’s mail gets here in four days,” Grimm added.
Both Shenoy and Grimm live in Hepburn Hall but received their ballots at different times on the same day.
A Hepburn Hall RA and the hall’s resident director declined to comment on mail distribution practices, saying the university prohibited them from speaking on the record.
Most mail is en route to residence halls by 2 p.m, said Sydney Schank, a student package center employee.
All mail addressed to campus residence halls is first filtered through the package center where the mail is sorted by address, explained Schank. Medications, absentee ballots and other time-sensitive materials are not prioritized in any way. After they sort the mail, student package center employees put it into large bags for same-day distribution, each with their own mail route.
The hall delivery times vary from day to day, Schank said. Sometimes the mail leaves the center at 10 or 11 a.m., but on other days it might not be until 1 or 2 in the afternoon.
Maddie O’Toole, a senior strategic communication major and former RA, said RAs are in charge of putting the mail in dorm mailboxes.
“I didn’t know of any deadlines for getting mail into the boxes, just that it should be one of the first things we do when on duty,” O’Toole said. “It was part of our RA checklist that we filled out every time we were on duty and every time we went on rounds, so I normally just never forgot to do it. I think we might have gotten some reminders at our staff meetings or in an email if someone forgot to do it, but I never remember it being a super big deal or problem.”
Brian McDonald, a junior interactive media studies major and former RA for Porter Hall, said different residence halls may have different rules.
The lack of standard mail dispensing practices means it’s difficult to determine why individual letters — and absentee ballots — don’t arrive on time.
“I think it hurts the most because if I would have received my ballot just a few hours earlier, I would have had the opportunity to vote in one of the most important elections in recent history,” Shenoy said. “But, I didn’t get that chance.”