Lots of Virginia readers are disturbed by a report in the Virginia Pilot yesterday on loosened voter registration rules for college students. Red flagging it:
Norfolk election officials on Friday reluctantly loosened procedures for registering college students to vote after protests from presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign and an admonishment from state election officials.
The Illinois senator’s campaign complained that the Norfolk registrar’s policy of sending a questionnaire to anyone applying to register from a college campus discouraged students from following through. The State Board of Elections asked general registrar Elisa J. Long to halt the practice.
The Norfolk Electoral Board agreed to that but said in a statement: “This compliance is with the understanding that the Board strongly feels that by doing so, we are out of compliance with Virginia Election Laws.”
Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for Obama’s campaign in Virginia, said Norfolk’s practice was “completely ridiculous” and had “a chilling effect on voter registration on campuses.”
Obama’s campaign has been aggressively registering students in Virginia, viewed as a battleground state. Griffis said Obama “is energizing young voters in a way that’s not happened in a generation or more.”
Of Virginia’s 49,000 new registrations in August, 43 percent were age 23 and under, he said.
State law requires registrars to decide eligibility based on two components of residence: place of abode and domicile. Long said the questionnaire had been used to determine domicile and was based on suggested questions from the state elections office. Abode is address.
“The frustration is that the code says you may ask questions to help you make the determination of domicile, yet now we’re being told we cannot use a questionnaire,” Long said.
“Domicile is a tricky question; we don’t consider any one thing,” she said. Questions included whether the students pay out-of-state tuition, pay Virginia income taxes or have a Virginia driver’s license.
Long said she does not know how a student’s residency status now will be determined.