Skip to comments.Student voting raises concerns
Posted on 08/30/2008 9:55:29 AM PDT by Darnright
A registrar drew fire for pointing out possible effects of students' registering to vote.
A Montgomery County official's attempt to outline state elections law for thousands of Virginia Tech students this week prompted a swift reaction from Barack Obama campaign officials, who worried the statement could have a "chilling effect" on a massive registration effort now under way.
Montgomery County Registrar Randy Wertz said he wrote the news release, distributed through the county's Web site, amid concerns that the hundreds of Tech students registering to vote using their Blacksburg addresses would essentially change their permanent address. That, he wrote, could affect students' scholarships or tax filings and would obligate them to change car registrations and their driver's license to their permanent address.
But Obama campaign officials said they had never heard of students' dependency status on their parents' tax forms affected by their voter registration and added that other laws the release cited are rarely enforced or subject to interpretation. Wertz issued a second statement two days later, saying the county cannot give out tax advice.
"They thought we might be intimidating the students and keeping them from registering," Wertz said. "That certainly was not our intent."
The Obama campaign's response highlights the state's newly minted battleground status, but it is also reviving long-held concerns that a gray area in state election law regarding residency could leave college students vulnerable to having their registrations challenged because of their transient status. Language in the state law could be interpreted to bar students from using their college address if they consider their residence temporary.
"What we believe is that if a student is living on campus, that's a perfectly acceptable residence to register to vote," Richmond-based Obama campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis said. Wertz said he agrees and has no plans to challenge anyone who lists their college address. But he said students with a different address than Blacksburg listed on their driver's licenses could have problems if they show up at a Montgomery County polling place without their voting card.
In Radford, however, Registrar Tracy Howard said he plans to call anyone listing a Radford University dorm room as an address to find out whether students consider their dorms their permanent residences. Radford's classes start Monday.
"A dorm is generally -- and I say generally -- the same thing as a long-term motel stay," he said. "There are people that don't have another place to stay, and they're perfectly eligible."
Griffis said Howard's interpretation sounded too narrow. "I think if we need to have a conversation with the registrar about the way he's interpreting the law, that's something we'll do."
He added, "We have done quite a bit of homework on this, and we've already worked through similar problems in other places."
Charlottesville Registrar Sheri Iachetta said she faces the same issues with University of Virginia students as registrars in Radford and Montgomery County. But the question of whether students can consider addresses at college permanent is one she said she leaves up to the voter.
"I'm not going to question anyone. They have to sign under penalty of perjury that the information they gave me was correct," Iachetta said. "They're 18 years of age and they're away from home, and they can make their own decision."
But she acknowledged the ambiguities in the law, saying that officials "ask for clarification every single year." Even so, Iachetta said she has focused most of her energy on educating students running registration drives rather than enforcing rules. It's an exciting time for registrars to have widespread engagement, she said, and she's stunned with the attitude some students have taken to voting.
"We had a young woman tell us that registering to vote was sexy," Iachetta said. "I said, 'Please, this is what I do.' I'm excited about all the enthusiasm ... but we do this every year."
Wertz, who said campus organizers are dropping off stacks of forms in the hundreds every few days, said he is similarly excited about the prospects of a huge youth turnout. But his focus is making sure elections run smoothly and fairly. That can be difficult when partisan groups see youth turnout as a political advantage, but as Wertz puts it, "We don't have a dog in this fight."
Griffis said that upon raising the concern, the campaign found Wertz "responsive, concerned about the students and making sure they're able to exercise their right to vote."
He said the campaign is now back to focusing on the registration effort.
Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for Republican John McCain's campaign, said although "the McCain campaign urges all young people to get involved in the democratic process," she noted that Democrats flush with donations have "money and staff to devote to voter registration efforts."
As a result, she said McCain campaign officials are taking a more targeted approach to registering voters rather than the blanket effort the Obama campaign is making.
Voting is determined on your residence. Dorms are temporary housing for students whose residences, most likely, are where their parents live. If these college kids are so darn smart, you’d think they have heard of absentee ballots.
This was how the Kollege Kiddie Krusaders got rid of J.D. Hayworth in Arizona and replaced him with the lowest rated representative currently serving in the House. They’d do the absentee ballot from where they came while still voting a few times in Arizona. “One man, one vote.” Except for college kiddies. They like to vote and can do so as many times as they want. We don’t want to hurt their feelings.
“Allowing students to vote as residents of the county in which they study makes no sense whatsoever, and doing so has the potential to radically alter local elections.”
You could not be more correct. Take for example, the County of Santa Cruz California. Politically controlled by the transient student population.
If the democrats get away with this atrocity, it could well change the outcome of my local congressional race. UVA is in my district, a fairly solid conservative area, except for Charlottesville.
I am getting alarmed, to say the least.
Students I talk to claim they will live in Blacksburg forever (despite) the lack of jobs available after graduation. They use this claim as a justification for registering to vote in Montgomery County.
I am convinced that VT voter fraud is the reason we’ve been stuck with Boucher for so long.
We don't want to get into the business of figuring out why people are where they are.
As a member of the military, for instance, I chose to register in the town where I rented an apartment, rather than vote absentee in the town where my parents lived. (That's still technically my home of record, though - and probably will be until I leave, unless I buy a house.)
I should be very annoyed if my home state said, "We don't care that you're living here at least 3 years. You can't vote here." I do pay State taxes.
I'm sure the Obama camp will be doing just the exact opposite to the military voters though. Probably declare that they must register in person at their home polling place to qualify to vote even if they're in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Prepare to be let down again, like you were in 00 and 04.
I am getting alarmed, to say the least.
So cause a scene. If after the election you think this has occurred (and by the looks of it, it is and the university officials don't seem to care), get together with some other likeminded folks, hire a lawyer and get the voter registration rolls. Get any kind of public record you can.
We should probably start challenging double registrations ahead of time. Can that be done?
>As a member of the military, for instance,<
Being in the military puts you in a whole different category, with different rules, than does your being a student at a college or university. In the latter case, in most instances you are still dependent on your parents for tuition and for much of your living expenses. If you are in the military, you are responsible for yourself.
>If you are in the military, you are responsible for yourself.<
And I forgot to add, you are serving your country. BTW, thank you!
So long as students only vote in one place, I don’t see a problem. I’ve been out of college 15 years and I still find it annoying that so many locals in college towns are perfectly willing to accept studens’ money and labor in their local economies, but don’t want them to have a say in anything political. A lot of college towns would be insignificant backwaters were it not for their local colleges, the jobs they provide, and the money that they and their student populations pump into the local economy and tax bases. Besides, a liberal vote in Charlottesville, Blacksburg, or whatever college town is one less liberal vote somewhere else.
There was a story a few months back about some “college” that was going to issue “zero balance” electrical bills to all dorm students so they could register to vote in that state.
How are we preparing to fight the inevitable voter fraud?
Not all college students are dependent on their parents for tuition or living expenses. But even so, their financial arrangements are none of the State's business.
Finances are not a predicate to the right to vote. If it were, housewives - who have zero income - would not be eligible to vote. Should my (for now, hypothetical) wife, who is entirely defendant on my income, be barred from the right to vote because she has chosen to stay at home?
Constitutionally, there are only two requirements for the right to vote: residence and age. We shouldn't change that.
Alarmed because of voter fraud, or because you might be out-voted?
BTW: UVA is a beautiful institution. I had to be there for a few months earlier this year. I was impressed, and liked the Charlottesville area.