Sunday, February 06, 2011

Should College Students Vote In Local Elections?

Or should they vote in their "home" elections?

This situation is akin to military members, who might live anywhere in the country. Military members have a "home of record", usually where they joined from, and that is the jurisdiction in which they vote by absentee ballot.

How is the college student situation sufficiently different from the transitory military member? Both live only temporarily in their current location, even if "temporarily" means 2-4 years. Is there a legitimate argument to be made in favor of restricting voting of college populations in the college towns, and instead requiring them to vote by absentee in the elections of the municipality they call "home"? For purposes of this discussion, let's set aside whatever laws and rulings are present and discuss the issue on its own merits.


Rhymes With Right said...

Two points, Darren.

1) Those military members always have the option, should they so choose, to register to vote at their address at their current duty station.

2) Most college students are expecting to spend the majority of the next four years living in their college town and subject to the laws passed by local government. It is impossible to claim that they are not stakeholders in the local community -- especially when the college or university they attend is often the economic engine that supports the community where it is located.

Of course, I'm biased -- my first elected office was as the GOP precinct committeeman for the precinct that included a portion of my university campus, about 25 years ago. I also helped run the non-partisan campaign that got a student (a local boy, not someone from out of town) elected to city council, giving students their first real input into local government in the 130 years since the school had been founded (with its incorporation paperwork drawn up by a politically connected circuit lawyer by the name of Abraham Lincoln).

KauaiMark said...

I vote: "home of record"

MiaZagora said...


DADvocate said...

Perhaps a distinction should be made between students who live in dorms and those who rent houses and apartments, thus becoming more permanent, embedded residents.

Rhymes With Right said...

But DADvocate, is there really a distinction? Most students live off campus in student rental ghettos for 9 months of the year.

Not to mention that your solution would have disenfranchised me, because I actually began staying in town during my junior year (and continued to do so through graduate school) after my parents moved half a continent away -- but I always lived in the dorms (even during the summer session). So tell me -- was I an "out-of-towner" or a resident of the community? Especially since my desire was to stay in that town after I graduated, and would have done so had there been a teaching job in the vicinity.

DADvocate said...

I knew lots of students who stayed in town during the summer, too. If for nothing else , to work. This is probably more common at a school in a medium or larger metropolitan area where jobs are generally more readily available.

Perhaps, voters should be subject to the same rules of residency as required of candidates. I believe this varies from state to state, etc. It seems justifiable that students should have a voice in the government of the place they live the majority of the time.

Ellen K said...

This gets back to the whole issue of voter registration. In the last presidential election many Florida residents proudly spoke of voting in person in Florida and then voting by mail back home. This gives one person two votes and that is wrong. If a student wants to vote in the college town where they live, then that is their voting location. Likewise, if they vote back home, that is their voter location. This fluid attitude toward verification of election rolls is troubling.