Wednesday, February 06, 2013

More On Legislation Restricting Out-Of-State Students From Voting

Last month, I told you about a bill introduced by State Rep. Peggy Mayfield (R-Martinsville) that would impose new voter registration restrictions intended to prevent out-of-state students attending Indiana colleges and universities from voting in Indiana. The Star's Mary Beth Schneider has more on this legislation today with reaction from legal experts, students and lawmakers.
Paying out-of-state tuition could cost students something more under legislation that will be debated Wednesday: their vote.
Under House Bill 1311, students who pay out-of-state tuition would not be able to vote in Indiana.
Rep. Peggy Mayfield, the Martinsville Republican who filed the bill, said she's trying to resolve an issue about determining who is an Indiana resident.
"We're having people who are not necessarily residents voting in our elections," she said.
But legal experts, as well as lawmakers in both parties whose districts include some of Indiana's public universities, say there's a big problem with the bill, which will be debated in the House Elections and Apportionment Committee today: It's unconstitutional . . .
Indiana's constitution says a person who is at least 18 and who has been a resident of a precinct for the 30 days preceding an election may vote.
Chrissy Faessen, vice president of Rock the Vote, which encourages young people to vote, said courts have rejected efforts to set a higher bar for some to establish residency to vote than for others.
And the bar for getting in-state tuition can be very high, said Eddie VanBogaert. He was an Illinois resident who chose Purdue University. After four years as an undergraduate, paying out-of-state tuition, he stayed in West Lafayette, started a business and even got elected to the West Lafayette City Council -- and still had trouble convincing Purdue that he was eligible for in-state tuition for graduate school.
"I had to provide just a wild amount of (documents,)" VanBogaert said. "Leases, bank statements, W-2s, my car title, my driver's license, my business license. I even had the clerk-treasurer of West Lafayette write me a note." . . .
State Rep. Matt Pierce, a Democrat whose district includes Indiana University in Bloomington, said he had a similar experience. After four years of paying out-of-state tuition as an IU undergraduate, marrying and deciding Bloomington was his home weren't enough to qualify him for in-state tuition for law school.
Potentially tens of thousands of students could be affected. At Purdue, 42 percent of all students pay out-of-state tuition. At IU's Bloomington campus, nearly 45 percent do.
Joe Rust, 22, a junior who is student body president, was among a group of Purdue students who came to the Statehouse on Tuesday to talk to lawmakers about several bills, including this one.
"If all of the students cannot vote for the legislators here in Indiana, the power of our voice shrinks," he said. "And if a student is spending multiple years in the state of Indiana, why would they not have the right to vote for legislators who are impacting not only their lives as students, but their lives as members of the community?"
Rust is from Seymour but votes in West Lafayette.
"Why would I vote in an election where I no longer live, not even part time?" he said of Seymour. "I only go home every other month, if that." . . .

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