State wants Greenville Co. to stop college student questionnaire in voter registration

GREENVILLE, S.C (WSPA-TV) – There’s just a few days left to register to vote for President, but for some college students in Greenville County, their ability to vote still hangs in the balance.

This week, a judge will decide if they can register using their university address. A lawsuit filed last month by three Furman students who claim they were denied a chance to register. One says she had to fill out a questionnaire asking personal questions.

Now, that questionnaire is the subject of discourse between the State and Greenville County Elections Commissions. Both are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The list of questions that the Greenville County Elections Commission gives college students ranges from “have you registered to vote anywhere else?” to “ Do you have community ties (off campus) in the area?

It’s a prerequisite policy affirmed in court in 1973 allowing the board a deeper look to see if the student is, essentially, a serious resident of the county.

For Sulaiman Ahmad, one of the three Furman students who filed the lawsuit, it is a road block.

“It’s kind of pointless information that makes it more difficult, essentially for the voter here in Greenville County,” said Ahmad.

He said this was the same form given to a classmate and fellow plaintiff, Katherine West. In her affidavit, west said she found the questions “incredibly invasive” and refused to answer them. She said not doing so blocked her from registering.

Present intention, not future, is the basis of the argument, according to the student’s lawyer, Steve Buckingham.

“Where do you intend to make your permanent residency today,” Buckingham explained. “Today….today she wants to be a resident here and vote here.”

Now, the State Elections Commission is firing back at the Greenville County Election Commission. In a letter given to 7 News, the SEC says the county’s policy doesn’t match up with the state, they’ve told them this before, and they ask for confirmation that Greenville County will stop this practice.

Monday, the county responded in their own letter, essentially saying case law is on their side. They say a 2008 Attorney General ruling gives local boards permission to “inquire further into applicants intent.”

They plan to address this in court, Thursday.

At that court hearing, a judge will rule if this is a viable policy or if all students should be allowed to register in Greenville County. If an injunction is put in place, Thursday, allowing this, students will only have 36 hours before the voter registration deadline on October 8th.

South Carolina Election Commission Letter to GCEC

Greenville County Election Commission Response (Oct 3, 2016)

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