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Settlement Provides Critical Relief for Students Whose Voter Registration Applications Were Rejected Through No Fault of Their Own

Washington, D.C. –  Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and pro bono  counsel Kirkland & Ellis LLP reached a settlement with the Fairfax County Board of Elections and General Registrar for an order allowing George Mason University (GMU) students, whose registration applications had been rejected, to vote in the Tuesday, November 5, 2019 elections.  The suit was brought on behalf of New Virginia Majority and Amyla Bryant, after the GMU students’ applications had been denied because they did not include their dorm name and room number.

“We are pleased that students seeking to participate this election cycle will have their voices heard,” said John Powers, Counsel in the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “These students deserve the right to vote a ballot that counts and this agreement ensures that will happen. Implementation is important and that will require extra training for the poll workers who will accept these students’ ballots and ensure they are properly cast and counted.”

The order will allow GMU students, whose applications were rejected solely because they did not include their Fairfax campus dorm name and room number on the form, to vote in the November 5, 2019 election if they provide their dorm name or room number to the Fairfax County Election Office on or before Election Day (including at their polling place).

“We are pleased that George Mason students who timely registered to vote in Tuesday’s election will now be able to vote with the backing and confidence of a federal court order,” said Michael Glick of Kirkland & Ellispro bono co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

Impacted GMU students whose voter registration applications were improperly rejected due to the dorm information issue have the right to cast a regular ballot if they provide their dorm name and room number to the Fairfax County Elections Office by emailing it as an attachment to [email protected], faxing it to 703-324-2205, delivering it in-person to the Fairfax County Elections Office at 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 323, Fairfax, VA 22035 during normal business hours 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, November 1, 2019 or between 9 a.m. and 5:00  p.m. on Saturday, November 2, 2019. If a student mails the information to the Fairfax County Elections’ Office, it must be received before the student votes on November 5, 2019.

Impacted GMU students may also provide their dorm name and room number to the Fairfax County Elections Office when they go to vote at the on-campus polling place in Merten Hall on November 5, 2019 (Election Day), or between 5:00 p.m. on November 2, 2019 via email, fax or in-person before they go to the Merten Hall poll. Those students will vote a provisional ballot which will count as a vote.

“Our organization has been committed to registering voters and making sure every vote is counted in Virginia, including registering thousands of students at George Mason University and across the state,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. who organized voter registration drives on the GMU campus. “We will always defend a voter’s right to cast their ballot. Today’s outcome will ensure that these GMU students who wish to cast a ballot at their precinct in Fairfax will be able to do so.”

The order also requires that the Chief Election Officer working on November 5, 2019 at the GMU – Merten Hall polling place receive additional training to ensure that poll workers properly implement the terms of the settlement and that a member of the General Registrar’s staff be present during the time the poll is open on Election Day.

“This is my first time registering to vote,” said Amyla Bryant, a freshman at George Mason University who was one of the students whose registration application was improperly rejected. “I’m very happy I can finally vote and express my opinion in this election.”

Read the full order here

Voters with questions can contact Election Protection, a non-partisan voter protection program led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, at 866-OUR-VOTE.