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Full-time RVers' voting rights restored

Whether they give the nod to Obama or McCain or another candidate, FMCA members Ron and Leone Teel will have the right to vote in the November presidential election.

The Teels, who live full-time in their motorhome, can use the address of the parking lot of a mail forwarding service to register to vote in Bradley County, Tenn. That’s the result of an agreement between the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the Bradley County Election Commission.

“At no time did we think that our choice to live and travel in an RV would require us to give up our right to vote,” Mr. Teel said. “Because of the help of ACLU-TN, we can now vote in November and have our voices heard in this election.”

The Teels were among more than 250 full-time RVers who were purged from Tennessee voting rolls in 2006 based on a state law that prohibits residents from using a commercial address for their voter registration.

After unsuccessfully attempting to regain their voting rights, the Teels and another full-timer, Tom Layton, contacted ACLU-TN. In November 2007, ACLU-TN filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that the 2006 law violated RVers’ equal protection and due process rights.

While dismissing the case, the Court acknowledged alternative ways for the Teels and Mr. Layton to restore their right to vote while maintaining their right to travel and their autonomy to choose where they live.

“The Federal Judge who dismissed our case had said that we obviously cannot live in a mailbox located inside the mail forwarding service building, but that we could live out on the parking lot. So, we reregistered to vote, claiming the location where we lived was on the parking lot outside of the building.”

Mr. Teel said Bradley County wanted proof that they were not trespassing on private property, so the mail forwarding service submitted an affidavit granting them permission to park in the parking lot.

Tricia Herzfeld, an ACLU-TN staff attorney who represented the RVers, is pleased the issue has been resolved in time for her clients to vote in the election. “It is important that people be allowed to exercise their rights to vote and to travel, without repercussions to either,” she said. “ACLU-TN is committed to ensuring the right to vote for all citizens regardless of their lifestyle choices.”

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