Six University Student Assemblies File Suit to Prevent Implementation of New Law

February 24, 2000

LANSING — Today, representatives from six university student assemblies announced the filing of a lawsuit to challenge Public Act 118 which requires that a person's driver's license address and voter registration address be the same.

The lawsuit challenges the law as an unconstitutional violation of the fourteenth amendment, Article 4 of the Michigan Constitution, and the National Voter Registration Act.

ACLU Executive Director Kary Moss said:"This law infringes on the right to vote, especially for college students, for whom the process of voting will be much more difficult."

Plaintiffs include individual students, Windi Yager, Melissa Gill, Robert Bacik and Andrew Coulouris, as well as the student assemblies of Central Michigan University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, and the University of Michigan.

Because of their frequent moves within the collective community, students generally maintain a fixed driver's license address at their family home. This law will require students to either frequently change their license address or maintain their license address at the family home. This means that they will have to return to their family home on elections dates or vote by absentee ballot. Absentee ballots are more difficult and time-consuming, and will discourage students from voting in their college communities.

Windy Yager, a member of the student government at Central Michigan University, said: "This bill is going to encourage student apathy. Especially during an election year like this it is vital that students play an active role. I'd have to drive 45 minutes each way just to vote under this bill. Absentee ballots aren't the answer nor will they solve the problem of voter fraud which was one of the purposes behind this legislation."

ACLU Cooperating Attorney Mary Ellen Gurewitz observed: "Encouraging students to vote should be the first goal of state government. This statute, which discourages it, should be struck down. This is completely inconsistent with the National Voting Registration Act which the Sixth Circuit has ordered the state to comply with."

Abe Raffi, Chair of the ACLU student chapter at the University of Michigan said: "Students already have a deplorably low rate of voter turnout and this law attempts to silently drag students out of the democratic process. In order to vote, I'd have to drive an hour and half each way."

If this law takes effect, it will require college students to pay a significant price for the privilege of exercising their fundamental right to vote. There has been no evidence of voter fraud and state election procedures already in place are more than sufficient to prevent such a problem from arising.

The students are represented by Mary Ellen Gurewitz, of Sachs, Waldman, O'Hare, and Michael Steinberg and Kary Moss of the ACLU of Michigan.

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