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The State Board of Elections (SBE) was created in 1946 as a bipartisan agency responsible for ensuring uniformity, fairness, accuracy and purity in all elections in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The agency promotes the proper administration of election laws, campaign finance disclosure compliance, and voter registration processes in Virginia by promulgating rules, regulations, issuing instructions, and providing information to local electoral boards and general registrars. In addition, the agency maintains a centralized database of state-wide voter registration and election related data.
SBE regulations on voter registration provide guidance to college students and other first time voters may have questions about how to register and where to vote in Virginia. The following information is specific to college students and explains residency requirements for voter registration and special absentee privileges for certain students. For more information, see other areas of the website addressing registration and absentee voting generally.
How do I register to vote in Virginia?
A college student registers to vote in Virginia the same as any other applicant: every prospective voter must submit a voter registration application. Remember, you must update your voter registration information whenever you change your residence.
Every voter in Virginia must submit their residential address when registering to vote. (A mailbox cannot serve as a residential address.) If you are unable to receive mail at your address, you must also submit a local mailing address. A dorm or college address can be an acceptable residential address and does not disqualify you from voting.
What is my residence?
A prospective voter must be a resident of the Commonwealth and of the precinct where he seeks to register. In order to establish "residency," a prospective voter must have a physical location where they intend to stay for an unlimited time. A person can have residency in only one place at a time.
The applicant must determine and declare their residence and may change their intent at any time.
How do I vote?
A college student votes in the same manner as any other registered voter: you may vote in person on election day or, if eligible, by absentee.
Students who will be absent from the locality where they are registered to vote because they attend school in another locality are eligible to vote absentee. For example, a student registered to vote in Charlottesville but attending school in Blacksburg may vote absentee in Charlottesville. However, a student registered to vote in Charlottesville and attending school in Charlottesville could not vote by absentee.
Impact on Other Areas
Legal residence for voter registration purposes may or may not be the same as legal residence for census, driver's license, federal and state income tax, state vehicle tax, tuition, or financial aid purposes. The State Board of Elections and local election officials are not trained in these complex areas. You should consult appropriate advisors regarding these issues.