Student Voting Guide | Glossary

August 31, 2010

The Legal Guide to Student Voting uses legal terms commonly used in state and federal laws. To help students, we created a glossary of these oft-used terms.

Challenge to residency – All states have procedures by which a voter's residency may be challenged. A challenge to residency occurs when an individual asserts that you do not have a legitimate claim to residency and should not have the right to vote in that state. Laws regarding who can challenge a voter's residency vary from state to state.

Canvassing board or Board of CanvassersCanvassing boards (sometimes called boards of canvassers) are bodies—often at the county level—that oversee the execution of elections and the counting of votes in the region over which they have jurisdiction. Canvassing boards have different powers in different places, but they may play a role in assessing challenges to residency or verifying identity.

Domicile – Your domicile is the place that you intend to make your principal home, not just the place where you are currently staying. Domicile is usually considered the primary place where you live or the "home" that you return to after being away.

Gain or loss provision  – Gain or loss provisions are laws that many states have on the books that say that students will not gain or lose residency solely based on presence in or absence from the state while attending school. This means that where you live while attending school does not contribute to the factual question of whether or not you a legal resident.

Identifying Numbers – All states are obligated by federal law to require ID from first-time voters who register by mail if the voter's identifying numbers—the last four digits of their social security number or their driver's license/non-driver ID number—were not provided at the time of registration or if they could not be verified by Election Day. The state will match your numbers by cross-checking with the state Department of Motor Vehicles database or the Social Security Administration database. If you have it, it is better to provide a driver's license or non-driver's ID number, since this number is unique only to you, unlike the last four digits of your social security number.

No fault absentee voting – States that allow any voter to vote by absentee ballot without providing an excuse or reason for voting absentee have no fault absentee voting. In these states, you can vote by absentee ballot regardless of whether or not you will be in the place where you are registered on Election Day.

Present, permanent, and indefinite intention – Your voting residency is often determined by your intent to remain in the state where you wish to cast your vote. Present intent means that you plan to remain in the state for the time being. This differs from indefinite intent to remain in that present intent does not necessarily require you to plan to stay for the foreseeable future. Permanent intent, as the term implies, means that you intend make the state your permanent home for an extended period of time.

Provisional ballot – Many states require voters whose eligibility to vote is in doubt to vote by provisional ballot, which is distinct from a regular ballot in that it will only be counted if your qualifications to vote are later verified. Provisional balloting rules vary from state-to-state, but these ballots are often counted if the voter appears in state or county voter registration databases or if proper identification can be furnished by a fixed deadline.

Sworn affidavit – Some states will require you to sign a sworn affidavit when voting absentee or in person without proper ID. A sworn affidavit is a legal document that asserts under penalty of perjury that the information contained within (i.e., that you are an eligible voter) is true to the best of your knowledge.

Witnessing a ballot – Some states require absentee ballots to be witnessed, or signed by one or more voting age adult who can attest that you are who you claim to be and that the ballot in question was used by the person for whom it was intended. Some states go a step further and require that your ballot be notarized, or signed and stamped by a notary public.


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