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Twenty-one Harvard students are going back to court to regain the right to vote in Cambridge after actions by the U.S. Court of Appeals and the city Board of Election Commissioners stripped their named from voting lists June 2.
The city removed the 21 names when the U.S. Court of Appeals, ruling in the case of three other students, decided that Federal courts should not rule in state voter registration cases.
"We're going into Federal District Court to seek immediate reinstatement of the 21," Harvey M. Burg, Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union attorney for the group said. "Their removal was based on no new findings in their case and certainly violated due process."
The 21 had been registered since their victory in Federal District Court last November.
"In the Same Legal Boat"
Noting that all 21 students are now "in the same legal boat," Burg said he will ask the District Court to refer the case immediately to the Massachusetts State Supreme Court after clarifying two points:
*First, does the Board of Election Commissioner have any right to impose special burdens and hearings on students, or must it ask the same questions of everyone; and
*Second, does it make any difference to registration if a potential registrant is financially dependent on people outside the state.
"We think the courts ought to treat his as a matter of top priority," Burg said. "In an election year the state courts would be remiss if they didn't expedite this issue."
Burg noted that up to 20,000 students and student-age people are eligible to register to vote in Cambridge for the elections this November.
The Cambridge Board of Election Commissions has been contemptuous of student's attempts to register in the past," Burg said. "They require different proof of residence from different people at different times; often it seems arbitrary. It seems obvious that they're afraid all the students in the city might try to register."
The only legal requirement is that potential registrants produce proof of their residency in Cambridge at the time of registering, which must be at least one month before the election.
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