The suit seeks to require the county to allow the students to vote in Tuesday’s election, either by accepting the applications or giving the students a chance to provide their specific campus address to a poll worker on Election Day.
The District-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also wants the county to stop rejecting voter registration applications from college students who don’t provide a dorm name or room number without first seeking to obtain that information from the students.
“This case has broader implications,” said John Powers, a lawyer with the civil rights group, who noted that the Virginia Office of Elections website says generic college addresses are considered acceptable proof of residency in voter registration applications.
With thousands of full-time college students in Virginia registered at their university addresses, Powers said “there is a bigger concern here, in terms of the 2020 elections, about whether their registrations are ultimately going to be questioned because they did not provide their dorm name or room number.”
Fairfax officials declined to comment Thursday, saying they had not seen the complaint.
Gary Scott, the county registrar, has previously said that he would give the students until Saturday to correct their registration applications. Scott told The Washington Post his office needs to confirm that the students are county residents and, therefore, eligible to vote in Fairfax.
“The point is, unless we know where on campus you live, we can’t register you,” Scott said.
The lawsuit says the dispute stems from a policy concerning campus addresses that Scott’s office implemented earlier this year.
Scott said that GMU allows any student to have a campus mailbox, whether they live on campus or not. He noted that the county learned that at least three of the 171 students whose registrations were rejected actually live in neighboring Prince William County, meaning they’re not eligible to vote in Fairfax.
Powers said nearly all of the affected students live on campus and should be eligible to vote in Fairfax.
“If a George Mason student wants to register to vote, but he or she lives off-campus or with their parents, they’re instructed to register at the off-campus address or their parents’ address,” he said.