His View: It’s not voter suppression; it’s the law

My OpEd ran in today’s Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Enjoy!

Bill Parks’ Op-Ed response (Students who live here have a right to vote here) shows that his real disagreement is with Idaho law governing residency classification, and Idaho’s justification concerning student voting, which I argue we should uphold.

There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with Idaho laws. In a democratic society we can change those laws. But while those laws remain on the books, the Latah County Clerk is required to follow the law and the Secretary of State’s directions.

Parks disagrees with the Idaho State Constitution by saying that simply being located in Moscow is sufficient to vote in Moscow. The Idaho Secretary of State summarizes the Idaho Constitution and Idaho Code to the contrary: “no person is deemed to have gained or lost a residence for voting purposes by reason of his presence or absence while a student at any institution of learning.”

The wording is very clear. If a Moscow High School student goes to college in Florida, he does not automatically lose his right to vote in Latah County. And if a Florida student attends college at the University of Idaho, he does not automatically gain the right to vote in Latah County. Parks argues that physical presence alone does determine voting eligibility. But the Idaho Secretary of State says to treat “physical presence as a neutral factor in determining voting residence and therefore other factors must be looked at.”

Parks does not distinguish between physical presence and domicile, but Idaho law does  (Kirkpatrick v. Transtector Systems 114 Id. 559). The Secretary of State is very clear: “‘Domicile’ means an individual’s true, fixed, and permanent home and place of habitation.”

The Idaho State Voter Registration Form requires a “current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document that shows your name and address.” State laws control the criteria for voter registration, not the Latah County Clerk. By not requiring proper documentation to register to vote, they are not treating voter registration with the proper weight that it demands. For instance, DMV only accepts government documents or lease agreements to establish residency. To allow just anyone to register to vote with an Amazon invoice or a letter from their grandmother is simply against Idaho law.

Furthermore, Moscow is pushing the convenience of registering and voting here (as opposed to absentee) as a way to get the student population to vote. The Idaho Secretary of State addresses this issue head-on: “As a student, you should not be registering and voting in your college locale simply because you failed to register and vote at your true domicile.” Yet, that was the very pitch made to local college students for the 2016 presidential election.

The Secretary of State continues: “The above mentioned materials require that college students must establish, as with all other voter registration applicants, that the locale within which they seek to register and vote is their domicile, i.e. that they are living in the college community with the intention of abandoning their former domicile and with the intention of remaining permanently, or for an indefinite length of time, in the new location.” Switching banks to Moscow, getting a driver’s license in Latah County, etc., each indicate intent of abandoning a former domicile.

I want to reiterate that I am not opposed to college students voting. The right to vote in a free and fair election is one of our most basic civil rights. We should encourage every U.S. citizen of age to vote. But they should do so legally at their domicile. While Parks and others may not like it, Idaho state law controls registration and voting, not the Latah County Clerk. “There is no federal right to vote anywhere in the United States for the office of President.” That is not voter suppression. That is the law.