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ACLU Urges Registrars to Let Students Register

Anita Kumar

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has sent letters to 30 registrars in parts of the state where college students are likely to live to encourage them to let students to register to vote in local elections.

The letter follows reports that a Montgomery County registrar told students that their parents may no longer be able to claim them as dependents for tax purposes if they declare a separate college address for voting purposes.

"While registrars should assist students who are uncertain about where they should register, no registrar should question students who make the choice to vote where they attend school,'' ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis said.

The ACLU also sent emails to college newspapers asking them to warn students of the problems they may encounter when attempting to register and to let students know that they may contact the ACLU for assistance.

In 2000, the ACLU criticized the Fredericksburg registrar for failing to allow students with dorm addresses to register for local elections. The registrar later agreed not to automatically reject applications from students living on campus.

In 2004, the ACLU provided legal assistance to students at the College of William & Mary whose applications to register in local elections had been rejected.

An informal ACLU poll conducted several years ago indicated that Virginia registrars inconsistently interpret the law regarding student registration even though the State Board of Elections website contains the following statement: "You are the one to determine and declare the city, county and state in which you claim your legal residence."

"Most people have one obvious primary address, and that's where they register," Willis said. "But college students, almost all of whom live in more than one place during the course of the year, must decide which address is their primary one. For many, it's where they attend school-the place they call home for nine months out of the year."

By Anita Kumar  |  September 8, 2008; 2:39 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar  
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Shouldn't students register and vote where they, or their parents, pay taxes?

Otherwise, they are people with no vested interest in their school's broader community, affecting the outcomes of elections there.

Also, how does the local Registrar know that the student isn't already registered at home?

Posted by: NoVA | September 8, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

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