Indiana Lawmaker Proposes Unconstitutional Bill To Take Away Voting Rights From Out-Of-State College Students

In 1979, the Supreme Court upheld a decision holding that it is unconstitutional to treat college students any differently than other voters in terms of residency requirements to vote. Three and a half decades later, some Republican lawmakers are still trying to prevent college students from voting.

The latest instance is in Indiana, where a state lawmaker just introduced legislation that would prevent students from considering their campus address as their place of residency. Instead, the bill would only allow students to claim the address where they grew up.

The Indianapolis Star has more:

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.

Indiana’s constitution only requires that a voter establish residency for 30 days prior to an election in order to be eligible. Passing a bill that would impose a unique requirement on college students clearly violates the constitutional protections affirmed in Symm v. United States.

Over the past few years, Republicans have made a habit of trying to disenfranchise college students. In Maine, then-Secretary of State Charlie Summers sent a threatening letter to hundreds of college students in 2011 implying that many of them were illegally registered to vote simply because they had grown up out of state. The same year, then-New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien tried to discourage students from casting a ballot because he feared they’d vote “liberal.”

One Indiana Republican is already speaking out against Mayfield’s bill. State Rep. Randy Truitt (R) opposed the measure on the grounds that it would depress turnout among students. “We worked so hard on making the students a part of our community,” Truitt said. “And whether they’re there for a short period of time or not, from my perspective, they’re part of our community, and I’m just not in favor of disenfranchising them.”

Indeed, young Americans already vote at lower rates than the rest of the electorate. Even if this bill weren’t unconstitutional, its primary effect would be to drive down turnout among students.