It has not been a great year for elections. In DSG’s most recent election, less than a quarter of students sent in their ballots. In the 2014 Midterm Elections, the United States saw its lowest voter turnout since World War II. But despite low turnout, there is an important distinction between these two elections: while DSG makes voting convenient, quick and easy for its students, state legislatures across the country have been busy passing laws that restrict the ease of voting for the supposed purpose of limiting voter fraud.

In North Carolina, the 2013 Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) cut early voting back by one week, prohibited same-day registration for voters and eliminated out-of-precinct voting. At Duke, the student body was abnormally split into two distinct precincts, each with polling places located exclusively off campus. As part of a Public Policy 301 RSL project, fellow Duke students Jennifer Colton, Maddy Bolger, Alex Elliott and I conducted exit polling on election day at the voting stations of both of these precincts in order to evaluate the ways in which the law affected Duke students.

What we found was both discouraging and frustrating. Of the 233 individuals we surveyed, 148 were Duke students. Of those student voters, 30% had had some trouble voting or could not vote at all. If our samples were representative of Duke student voters—and we have no reason to believe otherwise—we estimate that close to 300 students struggled in some way to cast their ballots in 2014, and over 40 attempted to vote but were unable to do so.

It may be tempting to argue that voters who fail to follow the rules should not get to vote, but shifting responsibility from partisan state legislatures to individuals who take time out of their day to exercise their most basic democratic liberty is little more than victim blaming. Normative judgment aside, the consequences of voter regulations like North Carolina’s VIVA are objectively clear: many individuals who hope to vote in each election are inhibited from doing so and for reasons that go beyond ignorance.

These laws are complicated, multifaceted and constantly changing due to U.S. Supreme Court oversight regarding their constitutionality. Few state legislatures made any attempt to articulate the implications of their new laws to prospective voters, particularly those most likely to be affected by the laws.

Our polling indicated that two blocs of Duke student voters were particularly ill informed about what VIVA meant for them.

First, upperclassmen who voted as freshmen in 2012 must have re-registered under their new addresses for the 2014 election by a set deadline well before Election Day. Before VIVA went into effect, all Duke students were registered at the same precinct, and new voters were able to register under their campus addresses right before voting at an on-campus polling station.

Second, many freshmen and Residential Assistants on East Campus were told that they were registered at an address assigned to the West Campus precinct. The causes of this mix-up have not been definitively determined, but we surmise that many of these students registered under the address assigned to their P.O. boxes which, for the first time, were located on West Campus. Because out-of-precinct voting was eliminated, students at the wrong polling station were forced to go to the other off-campus station across town. Without cars, many of these students reported either giving up out of frustration or running out of time due to academic commitments.

After having studied the law extensively, I was somehow one of the students kept from voting by its provisions. As an East Campus RA, my registered address did not line up with the East Campus polling station. Lucky enough to have a car, I drove to the West Campus station to cast my ballot. After again waiting in line, the polling officer hinted to me that I should say that I lived on West Campus so that he could avoid the extensive paperwork involved in creating a provisional ballot which was required due to the logistical discrepancy between my living address and that at which I was registered to vote. And hence, the ultimate irony behind these regulations to curb voter fraud is that, at least in my case, they incentivize local polling officials to themselves commit fraud.

When we sent in a memo of our findings to Duke’s administration, we received this response from VP for Public Affairs Michael Schoenfeld: “You should know that Duke… took an active role in advocating for policies that would not diminish (or confuse) the ability of students to exercise their franchise in the state… DSG, Students, my office and others on campus were engaged in informing students and staff about the changes last year through email, websites, university-funded buses to polling sites, etc., and your report is a good reminder that there is still more to be done.”

Yet countless students were caught completely unaware of the changes. I would not have re-registered had an out-of-state nonprofit not come in to register student voters. Duke’s administration must take a far more central role in ensuring that all of its students who want to vote are able to do so, especially considering that an even more restrictive provision—a requirement for students who do not register within 90 days of the election to provide non-student North Carolina IDs—will be enforced in 2016.

Brendan McCartney is a Trinity junior. His column runs every other Tuesday.