News Release

* Fox News Falsely Claims Students Registering to Vote Could Be a Felony * Universities and Their Legal Obligations vis-a-vis Student Registration


Zuccaro is a student at the University of Arizona and a member of the Network of Feminist Student Activists, which runs student voter registration drives. She said today: “We were registering students when we were interviewed by Fox News reporter Natalie Tejeda, who claimed that we were committing ‘unintentional felony’ by registering out-of-state students. She cited Pima County Voter Registrar Chris Roads, a Republican, who said that out-of-state students are committing a felony if they register to vote in Arizona and they don’t intend on remaining in the state ‘indefinitely.’ The report was broadcast with those statements. It felt like a blatant attempt at intimidation, an attempt to scare students away from exercising their constitutional rights.”

She added: “While Pima County Recorder Ann Rodriguez later issued a clarification that students can register in Arizona, we feel that the damage has been done, especially since Rodriguez did not retract her deputy Roads’ statement. Meanwhile, Chris Roads continues to sow seeds of confusion and possible intimidation with statements such as that future systemized voter databases across the country would help ‘catch those who have illegally voted’ and that ‘while a person may not be caught this month or this year, the chances of getting caught in the future are pretty significant.’ In other words, he’s trying to make students believe that if they vote while living in Arizona and move away anytime in the future, they will have committed a felony. We’ve been trying to inform students of their rights but I’m afraid this environment is already making many students scared to cast their vote.”
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Chemerinsky is the Alston & Bird Professor of Law at Duke Law School. He frequently argues appellate cases, including in the United States Supreme Court and the United States Courts of Appeals. He said today: “The law is clear that college students may vote, if they wish, in the area they live to attend college. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that states must allow students to register to vote. Unfortunately, some counties and states still do not follow this law. Sometimes, the media misreports the law concerning where students may vote. This occurred in Tucson, Arizona, where a Fox news report falsely said that college students may be committing a felony by registering to vote there. That is clearly wrong, as the law is well established that students may vote in the place they live to go to school.”
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Universities and Their Legal Obligations vis-a-vis Student Registration

King is the research director at the Institute of Politics at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The Institute has just released a study titled “Survey of College and University Voter Registration and Mobilization Efforts,” which was carried out in collaboration with The Chronicle of Higher Education. King said today: “In 2000, only 36.1 percent of America’s 26.8 million citizens between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in the presidential election. The rate at which young people vote has declined significantly since 1972, when over half of them went to the polls. However, the future may not be as bleak as these numbers seem to predict, since 92 percent of college students believe more of their peers would vote if the processes of registering and voting by absentee ballot were easier. Universities entrusted with the education of this country’s youth may have a civic obligation to prepare them for our participatory republic. However, these institutions have more than a patriotic duty to provide their students with the means to register to vote; it is federal law. The Higher Education Act of 1998 requires that each college and university receiving federal funds commit to a ‘good faith effort to distribute a mail voter registration form’ to each student and to ‘make such forms widely available to students at the institution.’ … Using this ‘strict’ definition of the letter of the law, just 16.9 percent of the schools in our survey are in compliance with the Higher Education Act of 1998. While the overwhelming majority of schools are not in strict compliance with the law … most schools (65.5 percent) have programs in place that meet either the letter or the spirit of the law. One-third of schools fall seriously short of either the letter or the spirit of the law. … The absentee voting process can be difficult to navigate, when states have various deadlines and onerous rules, such as requiring multiple witnesses or demanding an acceptable excuse.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167