Election Protection · You Have the Right to Vote

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Issues

Residency

In order to be eligible to vote within a particular jurisdiction, an individual must be a resident of that jurisdiction.  Each state is empowered to create its own definition of “resident.” Generally, the test of residency is two-fold:  (1) presence within the jurisdiction and (2) the intention to be a resident of the jurisdiction.  For certain categories of voters, the test for residency is fluid. Such is the case for college students, members of the military stationed both domestically and abroad, individuals assigned to long-term out-of-jurisdiction work projects and retirees who spend significant portions of the year in different jurisdictions. 

College students are frequently unable to vote due to erroneous interpretations of residency requirements. Some jurisdictions attempt to restrict college students’ ability to vote at their campus address or by absentee ballot when away at school. Moreover, some jurisdictions are outwardly hostile to college students attempting to exercise their right to vote within the jurisdiction.  For example, students at Georgia Southern University (GSU) were falsely told that they would risk losing their financial aid and that their parents could no longer claim them as dependents on their tax returns if they voted in Statesboro, Georgia (GSU’s campus is in Statesboro). Similarly, students at Prairie View A&M University were threatened by the local district attorney with charges of felony prosecution for “illegal voting” if they registered and voted at school. In both instances, voter rights organizations helped to curb these intimidation practices, but some students were likely deterred from voting.