Students living in EVGR report being unable to register to vote, conduct address changes

Sept. 24, 2020, 6:21 p.m.

Graduate students residing at Escondido Village Graduate Residences have experienced problems with voter registration, changing their address, mail delivery and address validity for insurance and legal documentation, according to a recent internal survey spearheaded by EVGR Community Associate Best Chaipornkaew. 

Graduate students raised particular concerns about their ability to register to vote and receive absentee ballot materials for the upcoming presidential election. This comes at a time of nationwide concern about the United States Post Office’s ability to deliver election mail in a timely manner given the Trump administration’s commitment to cutting costs at the agency, a move that the president has acknowledged is intended to curb mail-in voting. 

According to the survey, 65% of the 68 participants who tried to register to vote using their EVGR address were unsuccessful, while 76% of the 74 students who participated and attempted to change their address with the Department of Motor Vehicles reported being unable to do so. 

The survey had 159 total participants out of the approximately 1,200 total graduate students on the rosters of EVGR buildings B, C and D. The survey’s respondents reported a mean mail satisfaction score of 3.8 on a scale of 1 (not working) to 10 (working perfectly).

“Until recently, USPS was refusing to deliver mail to the EVGR residences, even though service was requested as far back as January 2018,” the EVGR Housing Front Desk wrote in an email to residents on Sept. 4.

Residential and Dining Enterprises spokesperson Jocelyn Breeland wrote in a statement to the Daily that the difficulties delivering mail were due to “an internal communications error within the USPS organization [that] prevented these deliveries.” 

Residents were notified in the same email that R&DE had reached an agreement with USPS, and they could retrieve their mail at a designated pickup location. “R&DE is now receiving flat mail and packages for students living in EVGR, delivered by USPS to the Housing Front Desk and will continue to do so until the issues are resolved,” Breeland wrote. She added that mail can be retrieved in EVGR-B meeting room 141, which is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

EVGR’s official mailroom is not functional. The Housing Front Desk told residents that the mailroom’s keyless lock system is holding up its opening, as the locks need to undergo a “testing phase prior to activation.” Once this is complete, students will be able to receive mail at personal mailboxes located on the first floor of each EVGR building. Unlike graduate residents, undergraduate students living in EVGR-A this quarter are assigned P.O. boxes at the Stanford post office.

Though the mail delivery problem has been addressed, residents have continued to experience difficulty with having their EVGR address viewed as valid by a wide range of institutions. These include entities such as the DMV; the California Secretary of State’s Office, which handles voter registration; the Department of Homeland Security, which handles immigration services; banks; and insurance companies, among others. 

“We hope the quantitative figures help administrators identify, prioritize and bridge the ongoing gaps in address and mail delivery services,” Chaipornkaew said of the survey results. 

Breeland wrote that R&DE is aware “that students are encountering difficulties changing their address online with financial institutions, DMV, and others.” R&DE attributes this problem to USPS’s failure to register the secondary addresses, or apartment numbers, in each EVGR building. This error makes residents’ EVGR addresses invalid in the eyes of the USPS address verification system that is used by the DMV and financial institutions, among other entities. 

Michelle Chang, a sixth-year history Ph.D. student, emphasized that this poses a particular threat to international students, who often need to present a valid address for legal documentation and to receive immigration materials by mail. “We don’t have a parent’s house in the U.S. that just ties over,” she said. “When we move, everything has to move with us.” 

Chang was confronted with renewing her driver’s license and changing her car registration, bank and insurance information — all at the same time, but said that none of the systems recognize her EVGR address as valid. She is concerned that if she cannot renew her address, important documents will be sent to the old address that these institutions have on file. 

“I’m worried sick because I don’t want my new driver’s license to be sent to my old address,” Chang said. “I don’t know who’s living there.”

Samson Mataraso, a first-year biomedical informatics Ph.D. student, struggled to register to vote. “One of the first things I did when I moved in was update my voter registration with my new address,” he wrote in an email to The Daily. “The state sends voter registration cards by mail to confirm your updated registration, so I wanted to make sure I could receive it.” Mataraso soon discovered, however, that his mailbox wouldn’t physically open and he could not retrieve his voter registration card.

Mataraso is not the only EVGR resident who is concerned about the ability to register and vote by mail in November. “I have heard people worrying about receiving their absentee ballots,” Chaipornkaew said. 

Ten residents reported problems with medication delivery in the survey, while 87 stated that they had encountered problems with changing their address and 44 said that they experienced difficulty registering to vote.

Liana Keesing ’23, who co-directs StanfordVotes, a nonpartisan student organization focused on increasing voter turnout among Stanford students, told The Daily that the mail problems at EVGR are of great concern to the organization. 

“Vote-by-mail is always important, but it’s particularly important this year, when there aren’t other options that are available to many students, especially those who are immunocompromised and have other reasons that they don’t feel comfortable putting on a mask and going out to vote,” Keesing said. 

Keesing urged student voters to act now and request that their ballot be received at a trustworthy mail delivery address, such as a P.O. box that does not have to be registered under their name or located at their residence address. She added that StanfordVotes is available to assist students with planning their vote.

Chang stressed that this is an issue that extends beyond package or mail delivery.

“This is about privacy issues and our legal status and all kinds of really really serious, high-stakes things,” she said. 

Contact Georgia Rosenberg at georgiar ‘at’

Georgia Rosenberg is the Vol. 261 executive editor for print. She was previously a Vol. 260 news managing editor and a Vol. 258/259 desk editor for university news. Contact her at grosenberg 'at'!

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