With less than 30 days left in the presidential race, voter registration drives are in full swing, especially on college campuses. But for students who leave home to attend college, registering in some states may not simple as voting eligibility rules can be vague and confusing.
“It’s up to students to determine voter residency,” says Jennifer Rosenberg, fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Most of the time, if students consider their college address their home they shouldn’t have a hard time voting there.”
But some students have had a hard time. In September, students at Virginia Tech were told by the Montgomery County elections registrar that they’d lose their right to be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns and lose financial aid eligibility if they registered to vote in Blacksburg, where the school is located.
“[Registering] definitely won’t affect federal financial aid. In only a very small number of cases can it affect your state-based aid,” Rosenberg says.
Situations like what happened at Virginia Tech don’t just arise from nowhere. Often they are the result of murky voting laws that lead to twisted interpretations. “The problem with Virginia [codes] is that they are poorly written and very confusing so you have different registrars applying it differently,” says Sujatha Jahagirdar, program coordinator for the Student Public Interest Research Groups’ New Voters Project.
Voting Check List
Find out what your city and state requires before heading to the polls. Stephanie Brown, the national director of NAACP’s youth and college division, recommends students look up identification requirements before heading to the polls. She says students who don’t have ID reflecting the city or state they’re in could face problems.
Also, “people need to do their part and make sure their registration is filled out correctly,” Brown says. Even if you’re trying to fill out the registration form between classes, take your time.
Make sure you’re registered by checking the county’s voter registration rolls. This can be done by logging on to www.866ourvote.com or calling 866-OurVote (866-687-8683). “If you’re not on