Judge hears arguments in Furman student voter registration lawsuit

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA-TV) – Students from Furman University will soon learn whether or not they can register to vote in Greenville County.

Thursday, a judge heard arguments on a lawsuit claiming they were blocked from registering using their university address.

“I hope that we will get a verdict quickly so we will be able to register as many people as possible in the next 36 hours,” said plaintiff, Katherine West.

The clock ticks down on voter registration deadline, but for the Furman sophomore, she tried mailing in her Greenville County application more than a month ago. She says she was sent a questionnaire instead of her registration card.

The list of questions is sent to inquiring college students is part of a long standing Greenville County election commission policy to determine if the student is a serious resident of the area. Now, it is at the center of a lawsuit filed against the state and the county election commissions.

“The board is unabashedly discriminating against students – residents of this county – who identify their address as on campus housing,” said the student’s attorney, Steve Buckingham.

Thursday, Buckingham argued for an injunction, effectively halting the county’s policy allowing them to register before time runs out.

The county’s lawyer, Nick Nicholson, asked to dismiss the case, saying state law and the state election commission’s handbook is on their side.

“It is the responsibility of the county board, with respect to voter registration, to determine the qualifications of all voter registration applicants,” said Nicholson.

However, the lawyer for the state board sided with students.

“Students cannot be held to a higher standard of residency than any other applicant. That’s what we have instructed all of our county boards, including Greenville County to do,” said Kristina Catoe, attorney for the South Carolina Election Commission.

Student and plaintiff, Ben Longnecker, believes that will bolster their case.

“I believe we will get a favorable verdict,” he said.

Now they wait, hoping they will be Greenville County voters November 8th.

Judge Robin Stillwell vowed to make a decision quickly, considering the potential time crunch getting students registered.

If the verdict goes the students’ way, it means any Greenville County college student will be able to register using their school address.

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