Voting just got easier for students at Haverford College.
Following an outpouring of support from the college and nearby residents, the Delaware County Board of Elections on Monday voted unanimously to move the precinct's polling place from Coopertown Elementary School to the Main Line campus.
The approval came after years of trying and after the college assured the board that it would provide a pleasant voting experience for students and residents.
"It met all the requirements, and the college went out of its way to be accommodating to all voters," Election Board Chairman Carmen Belefonte said after the vote.
Jack Stollsteimer, an attorney who represented nearby residents who wanted the change, credited the persistence of residents and the college and the "power of the press," referring to an article and an editorial in the Inquirer this month. Stollsteimer and residents told the Inquirer earlier this month that they believed the Republican-controlled county government had been denying requests to move the polling place in the past because they were trying to discourage voting at a Democratic-leaning college campus – an assertion the GOP chairman of Delaware County denied.
Belefonte said that previous requests did not meet requirements.
But college officials and residents complained that students, most of whom don't have cars and who make up the majority of voters in the precinct, had to travel a mile and a half, in some cases on a road without sidewalks, to reach Coopertown Elementary, which isn't even in the college's voting precinct.
The college runs shuttles, but that means students, who have heavy academic workloads, must wait more than an hour to catch a ride, vote and return.
Effective for the November election, the polling place will be in the college's facilities building.
The move also won the support of Andy Lewis, the Republican commissioner for the Fifth Ward, who represents the precinct. He wrote a letter to the Election Board urging the move.
"Objectively, this checked all the boxes," he said, citing proximity for voters, the in-precinct location and Haverford's offer to reserve adequate parking and provide signs directing voters to the polling place.
Joseph Possenti Jr., a newcomer to the board, said he asked for more time after the last meeting to consider the request so that he could learn more about it, and was satisfied.
"I did a lot of research over the summer, and it seemed like the best thing to do, the right thing to do," he said.
Zach Oberfield, an associate professor of political science at the 1,300-student college, who has been pushing for the change, was thrilled.
"It's a moment where you feel like the system works," he said. "We shed some light on the process. We met the concerns that were raised previously, and we feel really good about the result…, It feels like a moment of victory for democracy … because this is more access and making it easier to vote for everyone should be our goal."
Haverford student Sam Epstein, 21, who is from Bellmore, N.Y., said students have found it pretty difficult to get to the Coopertown location. He went there to vote in the last election.
"It's really exciting that students are going to have better access to the polls," said Epstein, a senior chemistry major.