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SLOANE v. SMITH

October 3, 1972

Janet SLOANE, on behalf of herself and approximately 7,000 other students of Pennsylvania State University
v.
George C. SMITH et al.


Nealon, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEALON

NEALON, District Judge.

 This is a class action brought on behalf of all voting age students at Pennsylvania State University who wish to register to vote in Centre County, Pennsylvania, in which an injunction is sought to restrain the Centre County Commissioners from utilizing voter registration procedures that illegally discriminate against them in violation of the 14th and 26th Amendments to the United States Constitution, and sections 1971, 1973 and 1983 of title 42, United States Code. Jurisdiction is asserted under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343(3) and declaratory and injunctive relief is sought pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 2201, 2202. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was allowed to intervene as a party plaintiff and a final hearing was held October 2, 1972, at which the following facts were established:

 1. Centre County, Pennsylvania, has a population of 99,450 of which 34,192 are registered voters.

 2. The Borough of State College is located in Centre County and has within its boundaries Pennsylvania State University where 27,200 students are enrolled. This student population is counted for legislation apportionment purposes and also in determining the amount of reimbursement paid by the State to the County under the liquid fuels tax.

 3. There are 3,500 students registered in Centre County but not all of these are Penn State students as some are Centre County residents attending other schools both within and without the County.

 4. The Centre County Commissioners under Pennsylvania law also serve as the County Board of Elections and have the responsibility of receiving and processing applications for registration as voters.

 5. Prior to 1970, duly authorized registration clerks employed in the office of the County Commissioners received and processed applications for registration as voters; did not require additional documentation as proof of residence; applications were not individually reviewed as a matter of policy by the County Commissioners; and voters were registered by these clerks without obtaining clearance or approval from the County Commissioners.

 6. Commencing in 1970, the County Commissioners have reviewed and either approved or rejected every registration application.

 7. Commencing in 1970, in addition to the application form mandated by Pennsylvania law, which the applicant must execute under oath and which contains the claimed residence of the applicant, the Centre County Commissioners required all registration clerks and authorized volunteers *fn1" to utilize a separate "white sheet" in questioning applicants and on which specific and detailed information was to be placed concerning documentation of an applicant's residence. These completed "white sheets" and executed application forms were then transmitted to the County Commissioners who made the sole determination as to the eligibility of the registrant.

 8. Commencing in 1970, an applicant would not be allowed to register unless he produced (a) a Pennsylvania driver's license containing a Centre County address *fn2" or (b) two or more, or a combination of, credit cards showing a charge account with a Centre County commercial establishment, checking or savings account with a Centre County Bank or Savings and Loan Association, lease, passport or other similar indicia of business or commercial activity within the County. A single credit card or lease or bank account was not enough and rent receipts, utility bills, University Identification Cards, Bursar's receipts or Dining Hall meal tickets were not recognized as evidence of residency. Moreover, if the applicant's driver's license showed an address other than Centre County the application was rejected except in a very few instances where there was an abundance of other documentation indicating residency in Centre County.

 9. Many students at Penn State are are aware of the stringent residency requirements in Centre County and did not attempt to register because they did not want to expose themselves to this type of questioning and were convinced that they would not be allowed to register.

 10. Since May, 1972, there were 3,002 registration applications filed in Centre County, including 752 students. Of the 2,250 nonstudents, 16 were rejected and of the 752 students, 74 were rejected.

 11. The Centre County Commissioners do not challenge the physical presence of applicants at the address listed in the application and do not challenge the duration of their stay but, despite the applicant's residency claim under oath, insist on additional documentary proof, viz., "black and white factual proof" that each ...


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