Arizona bill would bar students from voting at campus address

An Arizona Republican wants to make it illegal for students to vote from their campus addresses.

A measure introduced by State Rep. Bob Thorpe would require students who want to vote to get an absentee ballot from the address where they lived before going to college, Capitol Media Services reports.

The only exception would be for students living off campus. They could vote from their new address—as long as they first got a state-issued photo ID with that new address on it.

Thorpe said in a statement that students “dilute the votes of the local full-time residents within the college communities. This legislation will prevent unfair influence in local elections.”

Thorpe represents Flagstaff, home to Northern Arizona University. Students there heavily backed a successful 2016 measure, opposed by Thorpe, to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Arizona Sec. of State Michele Reagan, a Republican, said her office is currently working to make it easier for students to register to vote.

A landmark 1979 Supreme Court ruling, Symm v. United States, established that students have the right to be considered residents for voting purposes of the communities where they go to school. That case was brought after Waller County, Texas officials made students at Prairie View A&M, a historically black university, answer questions about their residency status before they could register to vote.

Still, states have continued trying to restrict student voting. One original provision of North Carolina’s sweeping 2013 voting bill—removed after an outcry—would have taken away a tax exemption for parents if their adult children voted at their college address.

New Hampshire has made several attempts to make it harder for students to vote. In 2011, state Republicans passed a bill—later blocked by a court—requiring voters to formally declare residency in the state. William O’Brien, then the New Hampshire House Speaker, made clear who the target was, saying students “vote with their feelings,” and are “taking away the towns’ ability to govern themselves.”

A new bill passed last month by New Hampshire Republicans and likely to be signed into law soon by the state’s governor requires proof of residence from those registering to vote on election day. Critics say it will significantly reduce voting among students, who disproportionately use same-day registration.


Photo: Creative Commons

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