ACLU Asks Virginia Supreme Court to Allow College Student to Vote in Local Elections

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
June 24, 2004 12:00 am

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WILLIAMSBURG, VA–The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia asked the Virginia Supreme Court on Tuesday to allow Serene Alami, a student at the College of William and Mary, to register to vote in the city of Williamsburg, where she currently resides.

Alami was one of several William and Mary students who were prevented by the Williamsburg voter registrar from registering to vote in local elections because their parents live in other jurisdictions.

“Some voter registrars seem to have decided to do whatever they can to keep students from voting in local elections,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Every student may not qualify to vote locally, but any student who no longer resides in her hometown and who has developed an interest in the community where she attends college, ought to be able to vote in that community.”

Alami’s parents, who claim her as a dependent, reside in Roanoke, but Alami works, registers her car, resides and intends to remain in Williamsburg.

Alami and another student, Luther Lowe, whose application to register in Williamsburg was also denied for similar reasons, asked the Williamsburg Circuit Court to order the registrar to allow them to register to vote in local elections. The court ruled that Lowe should have been allowed to vote in Williamsburg, but it rejected Alami’s claim without providing clarification on its ruling.

The ACLU said it believes that many registrars in Virginia unconstitutionally deny students the right to vote in the jurisdictions where they attend school.

“When registrars block students from registering to vote in local elections they not only deprive them of a constitutional right, but they also discourage them from participating in our democracy,” Willis said. “That is the exact opposite of what registrars ought to be doing.”

Willis noted that students at Mary Washington College faced similar difficulties in Fredericksburg in 2000 after starting a campus organization to increase student participation in local politics. Likewise, in 2002, Virginia Tech students were rebuffed by the Blacksburg registrar after one student decided to run for mayor. After the ACLU complained, registrars in those localities indicated they would not block student applications.

Alami is represented by ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg and Williamsburg attorney Richard E. Hill, Jr.

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