This story was written by Joshua Peters, The Mace & Crown
Until recently, out-of-state and non-local college students were required to answer a questionnaire regarding their residency in the state. However, in response to an objection by the Barack Obama campaign, Norfolk, Va., officials rescinded the requirement.
Those questionnaires, along with statements made by the Montgomery Country registrars office, informed students that their parents would no longer be able to count them as dependents on their tax returns if they registered to vote somewhere other than their home district, led to an outcry over students rights. The issue was the ability for them to vote where they attend college, rather than where their guardians live.
Susan Ash, a 10-year veteran of political campaigns working for the Norfolk branch of the Campaign for Change, said the basis for this backlash against the questionnaire stems from literature supplied by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.
It raised Constitution questions regarding the questionnaire, citing prior support for student voting rights and local registration in the Supreme Court of the United States case of Symm v. U.S .
In that case, Symm was required to register voters in the predominantly black Waller County, Texas. He created a questionnaire regarding how long students had resided in the county, if they were part of any church groups and where the student lived when college was not in session.
However, shortly after being issued, the questionnaire was squashed by the attorney general of the United States. The attorney general filed an action against Symm and others, alleging that the questionnaire infringed upon the students right to vote under the 14th, 15th and 26th Amendments. Upon review by a three-judge panel in Texas, the questionnaire was deemed illegal. That decision was later upheld by the Supreme Court.
The McCain campaign has an aggressive Virginia voter registration and absentee voter program, said James Brown, a media spokesperson for the campaign, quoting Gail Gitcho, the Mid-Atlantic spokesperson for the campaign. The campaign will continue its efforts to make sure that Virginia voters have the opportunity to legally cast their ballot.
With 49,000 new voters registered in the state of Virginia in the last month, the efforts of both campaigns appear to be paying off. Asked what the Campaign for Change has planned after the registration deadline passes, Susan Ash said the new direction will be one of gearing up and getting out the vote and educating people on voters rights.
Voter registration for the Nov. 4 elections officially ends on Oct. 6. Residents and students can check the status of their registration, or find applications and other helpful information regarding the registration and voting process at http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/cms/.