For Immediate Release
The Rights of Students to Register and to Vote
Jahagirdar is the program director for the New Voters Project
of the Student Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). PIRG was founded
30 years ago, and the New Voters Project currently has a presence in 24
states and on 150 campuses.
She said today: "The youth vote is on the rise. ... Visiting campuses
and talking with student leaders across the country over the past
several months, the excitement among the nation's college and
university students is palpable. However, numerous barriers to student
voting persist. ... [For example,] in Montgomery County, Virginia, last
month, a local registrar issued a memo that warned students of dire
potential consequences -- the loss of healthcare, scholarships and tax
status -- for registering to vote where they go to school. The
warnings, since discredited by the IRS and voting experts alike,
created a chilling atmosphere among student voters at Virginia Tech,
resulted in worried calls from parents and caused several students to
withdraw their registrations in the area. ... While the Virginia State
Board of Elections has since withdrawn much of its confusing guidance,
it retains troubling information that has the potential for student
voter suppression at the local level. ... Unnecessary restrictions on
student voters at the local level extend to other states as well. In
Greenville County, South Carolina, the registrar's office incorrectly
told students at Furman University that if they are listed as
dependents on their parents' tax returns, they must vote where their
Jahagirdar added: "With record turnout predicted in college precincts
this November, it is critical that local elections officials anticipate
and plan for a surge in student voters at the polls. ... Another
barrier to student voting across the country is a lack of sufficient
on-campus polling places. ... Oftentimes, however, local registrars
fail to [set up] on-campus polling places despite widespread support
for it among students, faculty and administrators."
Segal is the founder and executive director of the Student Association for Voter Empowerment (SAVE),
a national nonprofit organization founded and run by students. SAVE
represents a constituency of roughly 10,000 members on over 30 college
campuses across the country.
Segal said today: "Whereas long lines or deceptive flyers create a
clear graphic image of college student voting barriers, perhaps the
most insidious obstacles for young voters are stringent voter ID laws.
SAVE signed onto the Supreme Court amicus brief against the voter ID
legislation in Indiana, and we have unfortunately had hundreds of our
members in Ohio affected heavily by voter ID provisions.
"According to a Rock the Vote survey, 19 percent of young adults
(18-29) report they do not possess a government-issued photo ID with
their current address [many live in dormitories]. As a result, young
voters are forced to rely upon alternative forms of identification. The
substitutions for a photo ID, however, such as utility bills, are not
easily obtainable for students because colleges and universities
generally pay all the bills for students who live in dormitories or
on-campus apartments. We thereby estimate that literally tens if not
hundreds of thousands of college students will be forced to vote
provisionally this November, for which they might not even receive
verification as to whether or not their ballots are counted. This, of
course, lowers voter efficacy or confidence, which is devastating for
any young voters. If we are going to maintain voter ID laws in general,
then SAVE firmly encourages all states to recognize college and
university IDs as an acceptable alternative. Ohio, among many other
states, does not."
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