Civil liberties group says Residency Task Force proposal contains some advances, but also significant setbacks for registration by students and others.Richmond, VA – The ACLU of Virginia is asking the State Board of Elections to reject parts of proposed guidelines intended to clarify residency requirements for voter registration, particularly as they apply to college students. The SBE meets today and plans to vote tomorrow on new guidelines proposed by its Residency Task Force.
The issue of student registration has been contentious in recent years, leading to hundreds of students being denied the right to register to vote, several ACLU lawsuits, and finally a new state law requiring the SBE to issue residency guidelines.
“The ACLU of Virginia is pleased with many of the recommendations made by the Residency Task Force,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, “but we are concerned that significant barriers to registration still exist.
“In particular,” added Willis, “we want the State Board of Elections to reject the proposal that applicants must intend to remain at their current address for an unlimited period of time in order to register to vote. This provision could prove to be a stiff barrier to voter registration not just for students but for almost anyone in our increasingly mobile society. ”
State law requires that a person establish a “domicile” in order to register to vote. An early draft of the Task Force’s recommendation, supported by the ACLU, defined domicile as the place a person intends to make his or her home “for the time at least.” That was changed, however, to where a person intends to remain “for an unlimited period of time.”
The ACLU of Virginia cites two important advances made under the Task Force’s proposed guidelines. First, registrars must accept dormitory addresses from students. Second, registrars may not reject an application because the student will be graduating and plans to move away from the area at that time. Many students have been unable to register because registrars refused to accept dorm addresses or claimed that students could not establish domiciles because they planned to move after graduation.
ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg served on the Residency Task Force. Links to documents and information can be found below.
Contacts: Kent Willis or Rebecca K. Glenberg, (office) 804-644-8022
For information on the Residency Task Force, visit the State Board of Elections website: http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/cms/Misc/Residency_Task_Force.html
For Glenberg’s comments on the Task Force’s recommendations, sent yesterday to the SBE, visit: http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20090828-SBEResidencyTaskForceLetter.pdf
For the ACLU’s summary of the Task Force recommendations, visit: http://www.acluva.org/newsreleases2009/SBEResidencyTaskForceComments.pdf