The deceased. Non-citizen residents. People being double-counted. All have been cited by groups focusing on voter fraud as proof of the flaws in the voter registration system.But one demographic that has been largely overlooked is college students, a mostly liberal, migrating demographic that could help swing a close election this year.
Republicans have accused the Obama campaign of shipping voters into key battleground states. The voting ID laws that many Democrats have taken issue with could affect college-age voters as well.
As it stands, many state laws give students the final say in which state they chose to vote in, but the language of some leaves plenty of room for interpretation. A handful of laws stress “intent to return” and mention post-graduation plans.
But how many college seniors have their post-grad plan set in stone in November? Many have no idea what they want to do, where they want to move, and are still freaking out about what to do in the next phase of their life (I can attest to all three).
So asking college students to establish “intent” by election day seems a bit unrealistic.
Here are the voting laws regarding college students in some key battleground and college-student-heavy states:
- Wisconsin: Students can prove their residence with “A university, college or technical institute identification card (must include photo), ONLY if the bearer provides a fee receipt dated within the last nine months or the institution provides a certified housing list to the municipal clerk.”
- Ohio: “It depends. A college student may vote using his or her Ohio school residence address if the student does not intend to return to a different permanent address. When a college student registers to vote from his or her school address, the school residence is considered to be the place to which the student’s habitation is fixed and to which, whenever the student is absent, the student intends to return, and is considered by the student to be his or her permanent residence at the time of voting. Any other previous residence for voting purposes is no longer valid.”
- Florida: “A student’s residential address is the address the student intends to be his or her permanent address as stated on the application—just like any other applicant who affirms indefinitely a Florida legal residential address and no matter how long he or she ends up staying (the student may leave for a summer or after 2 or 4 years). A communal university mail address is satisfactory, even if the driver’s licence lists a different address (That does not negate the requirement to provide a Florida driver’s licence or social security number — if he or she has one — for registration).”
- California: “A person does not gain or lose a domicile solely by reason of his or her presence or absence from a place while employed in the service of the United States or of this state, nor while engaged in navigation, nor while a student of any institution of learning, nor while kept in an almshouse, asylum or prison. This section shall not be construed to prevent a student at an institution of learning from qualifying as an elector in the locality where he or she domiciles while attending that institution, when in fact the student has abandoned his or her former domicile.”
- Iowa: “Students can establish residency in Iowa if they have a present intention to remain at their Iowa school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principle home. Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional. Iowa law expressly allows students who consider themselves residents of Iowa as well as another place (such as their parent’s home) to choose either their home or school address for voter registration and voting purposes.”
- Massachusetts: Students moving to MA: “You may register in either state depending on which address you consider your residence for voting purposes. You may register from your home state and request that an absentee ballot be mailed to you, or you may register to vote from your Massachusetts address.” Students moving from school: “If you consider your Massachusetts home address your residence for voting purposes, you may request that your city or town mail you an absentee ballot.”
- New York: A person must have, “live[d] at your present address at least 30 days before an election.” N.Y. Election Law section 1-104 (22) states: the term ”residence” shall be deemed to mean that place where a person maintains a fixed, permanent and principal home and to which he, wherever temporarily located, always intends to return. According to New York State Board of Elections Director of Public Information, John Conklin, “Despite this definition, courts in New York allow college students to register and vote from their dorm rooms because they have, ‘legitimate, significant and continuing attachments to that residence.'”
- Pennsylvania: “If you’re a student in Pennsylvania who has moved to a new county or a new state to attend college, you can still vote. As a college student, you have two choices on where you register to vote. You have the right to register and vote where you live now, whether that is an on-campus or off-campus address. Or, you may choose to register or remain registered and vote at your prior home address.”
- New Hampshire: “A college student in New Hampshire may choose as his/her voting domicile, either the domicile he/she held before entering college or the domicile he/she has established while attending college.”
- Colorado: “For the purposes of registration and voting, no person may gain residence because of that person’s presence in the state nor lose it by being absent while in military service or a student at any institution of higher learning.” Students moving from Colorado: “Colorado law allows college students to keep their voter registration in their hometown and vote by mail-in ballot from college. This choice is up to the student. They may re-register in the jurisdiction where they are attending school, or they may retain their registration in their hometown.
- North Carolina: “So long as a student intends to make the student’s home in the community where the student is physically present for the purpose of attending school while the student is attending school and has no intent to return to the student’s former home after graduation, the student may claim the college community as the student’s domicile. The student need not also intend to stay in the college community beyond graduation in order to establish domicile there.”
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