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College student FAQs about registering to vote

Sept. 30, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The Nov. 4 general election is looming, and Western Michigan University students have been bombarded with information--and sometimes misinformation--about registering and voting.

A number of students have had questions about misleading and sometimes incorrect statements regarding voter eligibility and the effects of registering to vote in another city. The following questions and answers have been compiled by the Fair Elections Legal Network with more information found on that organization's Web site, www.fairelectionsnetwork.com.

Go to wmich.edu/vote for more information about registering, candidates and issues.

Q: I am a student attending college in Michigan. Can I register to vote in my college community?

A: Yes. You may register to vote so you can vote in the precinct where you live in your college community if you are a U.S. citizen, are at least 18 years of age by election day and have been a legal resident of the township, city or village where you live in your college community for at least 30 days before the election. Under Michigan law, your legal residence is the place where you habitually sleep, keep your personal belongings and have your regular place of lodging.

Q: I've heard that if I have a Michigan driver 's license or state identification card, that when I register to vote in my college community, the address on my driver 's license will be changed. Is this true?

A: Yes. Michigan law requires that if you register to vote at a new address in Michigan, the address for your Michigan driver's license or state ID card will automatically be updated by the Michigan Department of State. The Department of State will send you a notification that the address for your driver 's license has been changed and include a sticker to be placed on your driver 's license with the new address.

Q: I've heard that if I have ever registered to vote in another state, I cannot register to vote in Michigan. Is this true?

A: No. You can decide to change your legal residence and voter registration from another state to Michigan at any time regardless of where you lived or registered to vote in the past, as long as you meet the citizenship, age and residency requirements outlined in the first question above.

Q: If I register to vote in my college community, will my parents still be able to claim me as a dependent for tax purposes?

A: Yes. Your parents can still claim you are a dependent even if you register to vote in your college community. Students' decisions to register to vote in a jurisdiction other than where they lived with their parents before they left to attend college does not determine whether parents can claim them as dependents for tax purposes. Dependency is addressed by the federal Internal Revenue Code, and is mostly determined by students' age and income, not their voter registration or legal residence.

Q: If I register to vote in my college community, will I lose my financial aid?

A: Not for the vast majority of students receiving financial aid. Most students attending school in Michigan receive financial aid from the federal government and/or the state of Michigan. Federal financial aid is not linked to state residency or voter registration. If you receive aid from the state of Michigan, you would not lose it by registering to vote anywhere in Michigan because you are still a resident of the state of Michigan. If you receive aid from another state or from a local town/city government other than your college community that does link receipt to your continued residence in that state or town/city, your financial might be affected, but very few states or local governments do so, and you can easily check with your provider.

Q: If I register to vote in my college community, will I be dropped from my parents' health or auto insurance?

A: The terms of insurance coverage are spelled out in your parents' insurance policies. Most policies allow parents to extend health and vehicle coverage to dependent children on the basis of age. It would be highly unusual for insurance coverage to be linked in any way to your voter registration or legal residence.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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