The City Council unanimously voted to remove a section of the legislative agenda asking the state legislature to clarify the definition of the term “domicile” in regard to voter registration.
p. Yesterday’s vote followed a speech by Student Assembly President Zach Pilchen ’09, who urged the committee to either endorse students’ right to vote or remove the request for clarification of domicile from the city’s legislative agenda.
p. “We removed it based on the request of the president of the SA,” Vice Mayor and economics Professor Clyde Haulman said.
Councilman Bobby Braxton agreed. Pilchen’s speech gave the City Council a chance to stop and think, he said.
p. In the past, individual registrars determined the conditions for domicile based on a definition that may or may not include students at the College. Those who meet the conditions for domicile are eligible to vote in local elections.
p. “It would help registrars if we did have a clear definition,” Voter Registrar Winifred Sowder, said. “We have been asking for years.”
p. Pilchen agreed that clarification should be a priority, but the city should take a stance that actively supports student voters.
p. “I would have liked them to pursue clarification in favor of students’ voting, but I was glad that if they were not going to take a stance, they removed the blanket request for clarification,” he said.
p. “If clarification eliminates student voting, it will set town-gown relations back years,” he added.
p. The actions of the previous registrar, Dave Andrews, drew criticism from many student leaders. In his speech, Pilchen described Andrews’ tenure as “illegal” and “immoral.” Until recently, many students had difficulty registering to vote.
p. The firing of Andrews and appointment of Sowder in June alleviated the troubled relationship between students and the registrar.
p. At least 400 students have registered to vote in Williamsburg.
Although registration efforts calmed in the weeks leading up to the election, it is expected that more students will register in the upcoming year.