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Voter registration rumors clarified
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In the past few days rumors regarding possible consequences for Georgia Southern University students who register and vote in the upcoming Statesboro City Council election have floated around campus.
    Specifically, rumors center around that students who vote in Statesboro - instead of the city where their parents live - may jeopardize their dependent status on their parents' federal tax return and also their financial aid at Georgia Southern. Officials with the Internal Revenue Service and the university say registering and voting have nothing to do with dependent status or financial aid at Georgia Southern and would have no effect on either.
    A group called Statesboro Citizens for Good Government filed around 840 challenges to new voter registrations with the county registrar on Monday. The group said the primary reasons behind the challenges is the residency requirement to be a elector in Bulloch County.
    Sarah Hines is a member of the citizens group and is one of four people who signed the challenges. She said the group is concerned about students voting in local elections because they have only been here a short time.
    "Their primary concern is where their permanent residence is," said Hines. "I feel strongly that students who are living in the dorm - that that's not a permanent residence."
    According to Georgia Code 21-2-217(a)(8), no person is determined to have gained a residence by such person's presence at a college or university. In another section, the code states that financial independence, employment, income sources, residence for income tax purposes, residence of parents, motor vehicle registration - among other items - can be used to determine a voter's qualification to register and vote.
    Ultimately, the responsibility to determine whether these challenges are valid or not rests with the Bulloch County Board of Registrars. The Herald reported otherwise Wednesday, stating that county supervisor of elections, Lee DeLoach, was responsible. The information was based upon inaccurate information provided by the Secretary of State's office Wednesday.
    Another concern of students is whether a student - who is listed as a dependent on their parents tax return - can jeopardize that dependent status by registering to vote in a county different from their parents.       
    Mark Green, a media relations specialist for the Internal Revenue Service in Georgia, said state rules have no bearing on federal tax guidelines.
    "The IRS requirements for a person to be counted as a dependent on a taxpayer's return and the notion of a dependent for voting registration status are not the same," Green said.     
    Another concern voiced by students is whether financial aid could be adversely affected by registering to vote in a county different from the parents' residence.
    Connie Murphey is the director of Financial Aid for Georgia Southern University. She said the dependency status of the student, in relation to their parents and the IRS, has no impact.
    "Financial aid and the IRS are separate," Murphy said. "One does not have to do with the other."
    She went on to say that federal financial aid would not be affected by the decision to register to vote in a different county than their parents' residence.
    Phil Boyum may be reached at 489-9454.

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