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First Time, Student Voters Facing Dirty Tricks and Challenges Nationwide

October 2, 2008

For immediate release:  October 2, 2008

CONTACTS:

Deb Greenspan, dgreenspan@gloverparkgroup.com, 202-741-5573
Stacie Miller, smiller@lawyerscommittee.org, 202-662-8317

 

FIRST TIME, STUDENT VOTERS FACING DIRTY TRICKS AND CHALLENGES NATIONWIDE

Election Protection offers assistance at 1-866-OUR-VOTE for problems registering or voting


WASHINGTON — This election cycle has witnessed involvement from young voters, and particularly college students. Yet for all of student voters’ excitement about this historic election, students across the country are already being bombarded with misinformation on key voting issues.

"In some states where margins will be razor thin and the race could swing on a single college campus, students are being deliberately misinformed about their rights," said Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "With young people so energized this election year, this is completely unacceptable. Lawmakers and election officials should honor this new generation of civic participation by ensuring that all Americans have equal access to the polls."

Congressman Robert A. Brady (PA-01) , in his role as Chairman of the Committee on House Administration, presided over a hearing entitled, “Ensuring the Right of College Students to Vote,” designed to collect evidence of existing barriers to students seeking to vote in the upcoming election. Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) testified alongside students, election officials and voting rights activists.

  • PENNSYLVANIA: Last week, students at Drexel University in Pennsylvania reported seeing flyers around campus warning students that police would be at the polls on Election Day, arresting anyone with a prior offense, including unpaid parking tickets.
  • VIRGINIA: The local election board in Blacksburg, Virginia warned students at Virginia Tech that by voting locally, they could lose health insurance, be ineligible to be claimed as a dependent on their parents’ taxes or even forfeit scholarships. Old Dominion University students registered to vote in their college town received misleading questionnaires from Norfolk election officials asking for tax, driver’s license and vehicle registration information. A large group of students and administrators felt that this action was borderline harassment and immediately took action to stop the distribution of the documents.
  • COLORADO: In March, El Paso County Clerk Bob Balink, a Republican, sent information to Colorado College that incorrectly said out-of-state students claimed as dependents on their parents' tax returns were not eligible to vote in Colorado. Balink corrected the misinformation this week via a news release, only after Democrats complained of voter-suppression.
  • TEXAS: A recent New York Times article shed light on the voting battles taking place in the community surrounding Prairie View A&M University, an historically black university. Community organizers reported that local officials simply did not process hundreds of student voter registration forms.


These incidents are in addition to the codified laws that make it more difficult for students to vote. According to a study by the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Salisbury University in Maryland, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington make it more difficult for college students to vote on campus. These states have residency or identification requirements in their statutes and engage in administrative interpretation and practice that make it difficult, if not impossible, for college students to register to vote as residents of their college communities.

During the 2008 primaries, Election Protection found that many eligible voters across the country lost their right to vote because of inaccurate information and voter rolls, poorly trained poll workers and problems with voting machines. Deficiencies in the electoral process are of particular concern to the important voting block of students which includes first time voters who are not familiar with the election system.  Election Protection is mobilizing tens of thousands of volunteers to monitor polling places, educate voters, facilitate a dialogue with local and state officials, and answer the 1-866-OUR-VOTE voter services hotline – a monumental undertaking designed to ensure smooth voting in November.

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Election Protection is the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Through its 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline (1-866-687-8683) and dedicated team of experts and trained volunteers, Election Protection helps all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting, offering live assistance. The coalition has more than 100 partners at the national, state and local level and is providing live voter protection services now through Election Day for all 50 states. For more information about Election Protection and the 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline, please visit: www.866ourvote.org.