Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Out-of-State Students Would Be Barred From Registering To Vote In Indiana Under Proposed Legislation

An election bill introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives by Rep. Peggy Manfield (R-Martinsville) would bar out-of-state students who enroll in colleges and universities from obtaining residency within the state for voting purposes. HB 1311 provides that "a person does not gain residency in a precinct into which the person moves for educational purposes if the person pays a nonresident tuition rate." The change provided in Indiana's residency law for voting purposes could potentially disqualify tens of thousands of students who attend public universities in Indiana, such as Indiana University, Purdue University, Ball State University and Indiana State University, among other post-secondary educational institutions. Indiana's current residency law requires a student to have an "intent of making a permanent home in the precinct" in order to register to vote in a precinct at the college the student is attending.

Rep. Mayfield's district includes part of Monroe County, including Bloomington, where IU's main campus is located. More than 32,000 students are enrolled to attend classes at Bloomington's main campus, 30% of whom are out-of-state students. More than 30,000 students attend Purdue University's main campus in Lafayette, 30% of whom are out-of-state students. HB 1311 does not address how the residency of students attending private institutions of higher learning would be administered. Tuition at private colleges is the same regardless of whether the students originate in-state or out-of-state.

Given the Democratic leaning of counties like Monroe and Tippecanoe with large college student popluations, I suspect Republicans like Mayfield believe that the fewer students who are able to register to vote at Indiana colleges will decrease voter turnout for Democratic candidates. When I moved to Indianapolis from Illinois to attend law school, I not only registered to vote here, but I also served as a Republican precinct committeeman, notwithstanding the fact that I was forced to pay out-of-state tuition during all three years of my law school education. Under HB 1311, I would have been ineligible to register to vote in Indiana while I was in law school. I recall a big dispute that arose at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois where I attended undergraduate school when the county clerk refused to register to vote any students, including in-state students, unless they originated from the county where the school was located. The locals had this great fear that a large number of students would register to vote and take over city government. The Democrats took the clerk to court and won the right to register the students to vote.

No comments: