ACLU of Virginia had filed federal lawsuit on behalf of college students forced to register to vote where their parents live, rather than where they attend college.Two William & Mary students who were prevented from registering to vote in Williamsburg will be casting their ballots there on November 2. With help from the ACLU, Seth Saunders and Serene Alami filed a lawsuit last spring in U.S. District Court challenging the Williamsburg voter registrar’s refusal to allow them to register to vote in Williamsburg. Now that they have been allowed to register in Williamsburg, the case has been dismissed.
A third William and Mary student, Luther Lowe, originally a plaintiff in the lawsuit, was allowed to register in Williamsburg last spring, after a state court judge overturned the registrar’s denial of his voter application.
“The students got what they wanted--the right to cast their vote in the place where they live and make their home,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis, “but we are still a long way from eliminating the many obstacles to voter registration faced by college students in Virginia.”
The ACLU will seek legislative reform to force registrar’s to allow more college students to register to vote locally, but is prepared to return to court if that becomes necessary. The ACLU believes that many registrars in Virginia violate the voting rights of college students when they require them to vote in the jurisdiction where their parents live, even when the students no longer live with their parents and may have no plans to return home.
“Our plaintiffs are typical of many college students,” said ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg. “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.”
Lowe, for example, is from Arkansas but has established residency in Williamsburg, where he lives year round. He pays in-state tuition and is a member of the Virginia National Guard. He was told to register in Arkansas using his parents address, because his parents claim him as a dependent on their tax returns.
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. Alami lives in Williamsburg, intends to remain there, and does not intend to live again with her parents in Roanoke. The registrar told her to register in Roanoke because her parents claim her as a dependent.
The ACLU’s Glenberg and Richard E. Hill of Williamsburg represented the students.
ACLU of Virginia Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director Rebecca Glenberg, Legal Director 804-644-8022