ACLU offers to assist students whose registration applications are rejectedIn a letter faxed earlier today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia urged the registrar of the City of Williamsburg to rescind a newly adopted policy intended to thwart college students from voting in local elections. According to news reports, the registrar recently adopted more rigorous criteria for student voter registration after learning that several students intended to run for election to the Williamsburg City Council.
The letter also informs the registrar that the ACLU will assist students who have been improperly turned down for local registration.
An ACLU of Virginia survey conducted in 2000 revealed that registrars are inconsistent when it comes to accepting applications from college students who want to vote in local elections. The vast majority, however, allow local registration. Of the 26 college town registrars contacted by the ACLU, 20, including the Williamsburg registrar, indicated that they openly accept applications for local registration from students with dormitory addresses.
“Students who are politically and socially connected to their hometowns and who intend to return to their hometowns to live after college may choose to register to vote there," said Willis. "But many students become engaged in the community where they attend college, and they have no clear intention of returning to their hometowns. Those students should be registering to vote in the jurisdiction where they attend school."
In his letter to Williamsburg registrar R. Wythe Davis, ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis writes: “Because Virginia's voting laws and regulations do not clearly address the unique circumstances faced by many college students, it is incumbent upon registrars to allow maximum latitude to students in determining the proper place of registration.”
"Under Virginia law, the job of registrars is to encourage citizens to register to vote," added Willis. "Forcing students to vote in a place where they no longer live for most of the year, where they do not intent to live in the future, and where they have no political connections, does just the opposite.”
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia,804-644-8022