Allow College Students to Vote

It shouldn't be so difficult for college students in the US to exercise their right to vote.

At Virginia's College of William and Mary last summer, a college junior was told that she had to register to vote where her parents live rather than in Williamsburg, where her college is located.

Similar stories of such youth voter disenfranchisement abound across the country - from Arizona to Arkansas.

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In fact, a recent Harvard study of 249 colleges found more than a third weren't complying with a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that students be allowed to register to vote in the city or town where they happened to be attending college, provided they had established residency there.

Clearing up the local fog around the requirements for residency is needed. That, and better mechanisms to ensure students don't register in two places.

Students also tell stories of registrars who have resisted their efforts to sign up to vote. Registration offices in college towns need to be more supportive of students wanting to vote away from home, especially given that a University of Maryland professor recently found that even students whose colleges encourage them to fill out absentee ballots are less likely to vote.

After MTV's "Rock the Vote" voter registration effort began in 1992, student voter turnout spiked, but has fallen off in recent years. The Federal Election Commission reports the turnout for voters 18-24 went from 42.8 percent in 1992 to 32.4 percent in 1996.

Such numbers speak to the need for eliminating any and all obstacles to young people's participation in the American political process. This group of voters deserves better.

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