Case to be heard at 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 2, in U.S. District Court in NorfolkThree William and Mary students have joined forces with the ACLU of Virginia and another student who filed a lawsuit last Thursday to compel the Williamsburg registrar to allow him to vote in local elections. The four students, all of whom intend to run for the Williamsburg City Council in May, must be registered to vote and have collected 125 signatures by March 2 in order to be on the ballot.
Tomorrow morning, U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Jackson will hear oral arguments on behalf of three of the students (one was allowed to register shortly after his case was filed on Friday). He is expected to decide immediately after the hearing whether or not to issue a temporary injunction compelling the registrar to allow the students to register.
“Our plaintiffs are typical of many college students,” added Willis. “They leave home for school and become politically involved in their new communities. But when they try to vote there, they are told to register at their parents’ address -- in a community where they do not live, where they have no intention of living in the future, and where they have no interest in local affairs.”
The four William and Mary students are Seth Saunders, Luther Lowe, Serene Alami, and Robert Forrest. Saunders lives in Williamsburg, but his mother lives in Tappahannock and his father lives in Hanover County. He was told to register in Hanover because his father claims him as a dependent for income tax purposes.
Lowe is from Arkansas but has established residency in Williamsburg. He pays instate tuition and is a member of the Virginia National Guard. He was told to register using his parents Arkansas address because they claim him as a dependent.
Alami lives in Williamsburg but was told to register in at her parents’ address in Roanoke. Forrest , who did not complete a special questionnaire designed for suspected temporary residents, was first denied the right to vote, but told that he could last Friday after informing the registrar that he was no longer a student.
Under Virginia’s voting laws a person must have an abode and be domiciled in the place where they register to vote. Domicile is defined as the place where one lives and intends to remain for an indefinite amount of time, but the courts have made it clear that even homeless people have a right to vote.
ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca K. Glenberg represents the four students. She is joined by Williamsburg attorney Richard E. Hill, Jr. in representing Lowe, Alami, and Forrest.
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022