out-of-town voters, continued…

Brent Finnegan -- February 6th, 2009

Last week, I posted about Del. Cosgrove’s “unlimited time” residency/voting bill. Andrew Jenner’s story in this week’s Rocktown Weekly follows up with a thought from David McKinney, president of the College Democrats at JMU:

“Does it make sense to subject college students to such scrutiny, while never really asking the same questions about other people in the community — who come from wherever for whatever reason…”

According to the story, City Republican Committee Chairman Tracy Evans thinks that “JMU students and other college students need to be voting by absentee ballot in their home states.” Evans suggests that students should not participate in local elections, but instead can show up at City Council meetings.

Oddly, the print version of the story includes a paragraph that is excluded from the online version:

Neither Del. Matt Lohr nor Sen. Mark Obenshain, both Republicans who represent Harrisonburg in the General Assembly, responded to repeated requests by Rocktown Weekly for comment on the issue of student voting in Harrisonburg.

The sidebar article includes an admittedly “unscientific” poll of 10 students, determining who they voted for and why. The poll concludes: “the ‘student vote’ here pretty much defies easy characterization.”

23 Responses to “out-of-town voters, continued…”

  1. Renee says:

    I really honestly think that if Republicans had won city council seats, that this legislation would not be being pushed. And if they wouldn’t push it regardless of the election results outcome, it’s hypocritical and should be dropped.

    If Evans had been elected, I can’t imagine him making that same quote.

    Is it just my bias talking that I think Dems would not be spending time on a bill like this if they had lost?

  2. Renee says:

    I also have a hunch that the Republican City Council may have moved the local election to coincide w/ the national elections, because before Barack Obama, the students were considered to be majority Republican (at least based on things I heard while I was a student several years ago that JMU had a lot of young conservatives) and they had to know making that move would mean more students voting for the council.

    I really wish we had real statistics on how the student population voted anyway.

  3. Renee says:

    I also find it interesting that no one seems to be pushing this bill from the perspective that they want to keep hometown students attending college elsewhere voting locally. Does no one want college kids voting in their town?

  4. zen says:

    Partisan polarization is a natural consequence of moving local elections. And it’s more to do with the emotions brought in by national politics, than any threat by students.
    Any legislation that aims to limit rights is probably unjust anyway.

  5. JGFitzgerald says:

    “Does no one want college kids voting in their town?”

    The catch is, they’re not really a voting bloc if they’re voting absentee. Several thousand voters spread among twelve “home” localities are diluted. Voting in one town, they could (but didn’t) swing a council election. Also, if students are voting absentee, there will be fewer of them voting, simply because it’s harder.

    As a side-note, the council election also hinged on non-students residents who had never voted in a city council election before. For instance, Charlie Chennault was the only candidate who got more than fifty percent four years ago. He got about 1,900 votes. He got more than twice that this time and came in fourth. Also, even excluding the presumed “student precinct,” he got more votes than the number of people who voted four years ago. New voters may have changed things, but they weren’t just students.

  6. charlie chenault says:

    When I pushed for moving the council elections to November, I fully expected that it would produce a larger democratic party turnout in the city especially from JMU students. There was as far as I know, no perception that JMU students were “considered to be largely Republican.” I received and continue to receive much criticism from the republican party in the city. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.
    Thanks – Charlie

  7. Renee says:

    I appreciate your input, Charlie. “Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.” – that’s refreshing to hear from any politician! :)

  8. Gene Hart says:

    “Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.” When you hear that from a politician and can believe it, you know you are listening to a true public servant. Charlie, you have been a true public servant; something to which others of us must aspire.

  9. Renee says:

    I happened upon this article about this topic:

    And it reminded me – one town in VA had no problem getting thousands of students signed up to vote: Lynchburg. The heavily-conservative-christian-republican population there had no trouble registering locally (with dorm addresses) and no one was discouraging them. So I guess I got my answer to my question.

  10. Bill says:

    Great point Renee, I’ve read somewhere that Liberty attempted to register 8,000 of their students in the last election. My guess is that they were certainly going to vote for Obama, LOL.
    The best solution to this issue is to let the VOTER decide where they want to vote based upon where they believe home is. We must develop a system, so that if one is caught voting in other jursidictions from their declared “domicile” resident voting district, that is voting more than once in the same election, we can then have a civil process to end such an illegal activity. I suggest that we make a violation of such an act severe enough that people will follow the law. For example, make it a felony so that the person who violates the law will stand trial, and if convicted, loose their right to vote until such time that a court reverses their lose of their voting rights. That should be enough to scare many away from voter fraud. (And that may be the law already-I don’t know).
    There are some historic precedents for “home” voting. The Constitution requires that anyone serving in the Congress must be a “resident” of the state from which they are elected. The Constitution allows for the states to determine further definition of this requirement, but case law does appear to narrow the scope based upon the “one man, one vote” principal. For example, Virginia has 11 seats in the House of Representatives. Those seats are apportioned every ten years based upon two factors- the census, and the drawing of boundries that define where one resides is where and whom one will vote for. So I believe there is broad legal consensus to require in the strongest terms, rules and laws that require that the voter (1) register to vote in a place of their “domicile” residence, and only there, and (2) does allow for the state to determine, within proper use (not abuse), such rules necessary to carry out an orderly and legitimate election.
    In the brief history of democracy,we ceratinly all understand that the cornerstone of its existance is the right to vote. I am reminded that whenever that right is abridged, then democracy itself is in peril. Maybe that’s why Madison designed a republic rather than a democracy, though a republic is just a more controlled democracy.The key word is controlled, meaning restraint. I just love this discussion!!!

  11. Reading Del. Cosgrove’s proposed legislation, I don’t see how it could possibly operate to exclude the vote of students (aside from the fact that such a requirement, on its face, would surely be unconstitutional). Cosgrove’s bill proposes that “To establish domicile, a person must live in a particular locality with the intention to remain there for an unlimited time.” But by what criteria would the law measure an intention “to remain there for an indefinite time”? It certainly couldn’t require college students to intend to remain in their college town after graduation. Because the law doesn’t otherwise require as a condition of the right to vote that a person have no plans to move at some future time. The question instead properly focuses on whether the applicant is a legitimate resident at the time he or she registers to vote (Va.Code section 24.2-101).

    Students often live in their college town for 4+ years and as such, they have a strong interest in the political life of the community. I think any law intended to exclude their vote on such an arbitrary basis must fail.

  12. David Miller says:

    In conjunction to the very well thought out arguments made I’d like to add these brief questions. What’s the problem here? Is there some legitimate (the Acorn scandal was fiction, don’t bs me) problem with our system besides our local registrar cheating new registrants out of their citizenship rights? Surely this bill isn’t being proposed to solve that problem!

  13. Renee says:

    Thanks for the link David. I like that the article points out that analysis shows the students were not the deciding factor in the election.

    I also cringed at this phrase “Some GOP members blame the large student turnout” *blame* turnout? really? is a bunch of young people actually caring about their elected leaders something that deserves blame?

    To me, a high voter turnout is always a positive thing. The more of the electorate represented in choosing their representative, the better.

  14. David Miller says:

    It’s pretty funny when reality mimics satire isn’t it :)

    2012, President Obama BLAMED for solving world economic distress

  15. Renee says:

    Just saw this:

    Afterward, I’d like to see a comparison of who votes to allow felons to vote in the state vs. who votes to allow students to vote in the state.

  16. Karl says:

    What if they are an out of state prisoner?

  17. JGFitzgerald says:

    Obviously, we’d have all the felons on our side, Lowell. The Pubs all pardon one another.

  18. seth says:

    if i’m not mistaken, the latest list of pardons was uncharactristically short.

  19. seth says:

    (but i think you’re correct that most reinstated felons probably vote dem :) )

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