News

Can Furman Students Vote in Greenville Yet?

By Kayla Wiles, Staff Writer

Today Greenville’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit will hear a case by three Furman students demanding that out-of-state and out-of-county students living on campus be able to vote in Greenville.

If they win their case, Furman students will have two days (until Oct. 8) to register to vote as Greenville County residents.

Students Sulaiman Ahmad, Benjamin Longnecker and Katherine West are challenging the Greenville County Board of Voter Registration and Elections policy that students who list a university address as their legal residence on a voter registration form must also complete a questionnaire to prove Greenville County residency. Other counties in South Carolina do not impose this questionnaire on university students, the lawsuit states.

Left to right Furman students Ben Longnecker, '17, Sulaiman Ahmad, '18 and Katherine West, '19, after the afternoon hearing Oct. 6 to determine if college students in Greenville County can register to vote with an on-campus address. Photo courtesy of Ben Longnecker.
Left to right Furman students Ben Longnecker, ’17, Sulaiman Ahmad, ’18 and Katherine West, ’19, after the afternoon hearing Oct. 6 to determine if college students in Greenville County can register to vote with an on-campus address. Photo courtesy of Ben Longnecker.

Over 40 years ago, four Furman students lost the same case for the 1972 general election.

Despite a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that upheld university students’ right to register to vote at either their university addresses or home addresses, the Greenville County Election Commission  still requires students to complete additional forms.

Steven Buckingham – a Greenville attorney who is representing Ahmad, Longnecker and West — told the Greenville News that because other university students across the nation are challenging the use of questionnaires, Furman might have a shot.

This shot would be encouraging to Ahmad and political science professor Dr. David Fleming, who have been leading a voter registration drive called “Dins Vote” to increase Furman’s voting rate in comparison to other universities in the Southern Conference (SoCon).

“We quickly realized that unlike students in other parts of the country and other parts of South Carolina, Furman students can’t vote in their own county,” Fleming said. “That was a big barrier for us, because it meant educating students on how to register in all 50 states.”

The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) stated that Furman’s voting rate was 24 percent in the presidential election in 2012.

Fleming hopes that through the Dins Vote CLPs, the involvement of student organizations and the sheer entertainment of the 2016 election, that Furman students will be more “energized and educated” to vote.

“One of the goals of Furman is to create engaged citizens of their communities and the world,” Fleming said. “I want Furman students to lead their country and get their voices heard, and if they’re not registered and voting, they’re not going to be heard.”

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