FAIRFAX, Va. — Dozens of George Mason University students were surprised to receive a rejection letter recently from the Fairfax County Office of Voter Registration.
171 students received the letter after registering to vote, and listing their general campus address only, when their dorm name and room number is a must.
"It leaves students confused. Students we've spoken with don't understand what the next steps are. They are asking, 'what do I need to do and am I eligible to vote?' It's created a real mess," John Powers said.
Powers is a lawyer with the D.C. civil rights group The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Powers says the rejection letters should have never gone out in the first place.
Gary Scott, Director of Elections in Fairfax County, said the university gives out post office boxes to anyone, so it's required that students provide their dorm name and room number to prove where they live and what precinct they're eligible to vote in.
Scott says it's a nationwide problem plaguing on-campus students all over the country.
"I think it's definitely an issue," Daniel Coleman, a GMU freshman, said. "If many students can't vote, there will be a lack of representation. At the same time, I see a lot of solutions to this problem."
Scott says he has extended the deadline to Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. for students to fix their address. The university and registrar's office has sent out emails, texts and tweets to inform effected students.
But Powers says the damage may already have been done. He's worried some students will not be able to make the fix in time or understand what needs to be done, and won't be able to vote.
"Having a really negative experience will impact their likelihood they'll want to vote down the road," Power said. "It's important to get this right from the onset, which is fair, inclusive and complies with the law."
Any students who are having problems can get help by calling the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.