Two false warnings issued by a local registrar of elections in Virginia may have prevented students from registering to vote. The written warning, issued during an Obama-supporter voter registration drive at Virginia Tech, incorrectly cited dire consequences if students register on campus — namely, that parents could not claim the students as dependents and that the students would risk losing scholarships or health insurance coverage. The IRS released a statement explaining that there is no risk of losing dependent status, while the state board of elections said it will modify and clarify murky guidelines.
Any chill on student voting seems troubling. Why should students have to chose between participating in democracy where they live and keeping a scholarship or health insurance? Students should not be forced to vote in their home elections while they live near school and are impacted by local decisions, such as police policy, neighborhood ordinances, or rent control. Still others may argue that there must be a higher bar for voter registration. If a student wants to vote where she attends college, should she expect to pay state taxes, for example?
Perhaps the solution would be for voter-registration drives to present accurate pros and cons of where you register (not an erroneous and alarming official statement discouraging student voters), while providing resources for students to register back home, too.