Montgomery County registrar is out of step with majority, says ACLUThe American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia today urged the Montgomery County registrar to stop rejecting voter registration applications from students who live on the Virginia Tech campus and who want to vote in local elections. According to news reports, students have been attempting to register in time to vote in the Blacksburg Town Council elections in May, but the registrar is holding up applications from any student who uses a college dormitory address.
Under Virginia law, a person who has an abode in a locality and intends to remain in that locality for an indefinite time has the right to register to vote there. An ACLU of Virginia survey conducted two years ago revealed that registrars are inconsistent when it comes to accepting applications to vote locally from college students who live on campus. Most, however, allow local registration. Of the 26 college town registrars contacted by the ACLU, 20 indicated that they accept applications from students with dormitory addresses.
In a letter faxed today to the Montgomery County registrar, ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis writes: " Since most students live in two places--at their parent's home and on their college campus-- the simplest and fairest approach is to allow them to register in the place where they feel most politically engaged."
"Students who feel connected to their hometowns and who intend to return home once they finish college will surely want to register to vote there," said Willis. "But many students become engaged in the community where they attend college, and they have no intention of returning to their hometowns after graduation. Those students should be registering to vote in the place where they go to school."
"Under Virginia law, the job of registrars is to encourage citizens to register to vote," added Willis. "Telling students who are involved in the community where they attend school that they must vote in different community where they are not involved discourages political participation."
"A democracy is only as good as its voters," said Willis. "Registering to vote should be quick and easy, with necessary safeguards to protect against fraud. Fraud is not the issue here, so there should not be any obstacles."
A copy of the letter faxed today to the Montgomery County registrar can be found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20020405-Student-Registration-Blacksburg.pdf.
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022