His View: Should Students Be Allowed To Vote In Moscow City Elections?

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

I was born and raised in Florida and was a Florida state resident while at college in Colorado. When I wanted to vote, I applied for an absentee ballot from the State of Florida and had it mailed to me in Boulder. It never occurred to me to register to vote in Boulder. Florida was my home, and my interests were in my home elections. Florida even remained my “home of record” during my twenty years in the navy. I always voted for my home state.

The Idaho Secretary of State addresses the issue of college students voting away from home (https://idahovotes.gov/student-and-residency-voting/). Attending college in Moscow is not sufficient for voting in Moscow. Then why should out-of-state students, or even in-state students whose homes are not in Latah County, be able to determine the outcome of Moscow elections?

The Idaho Constitutional (Article VI, Sec. 5) and Statutory Provisions (Idaho Code § 34-405) explicitly state that no one gains residence for voting purposes by reason of their presence “while a student at any institution of learning.” Idaho Code § 34-107 defines ‘residence for voting purposes’: “Principal or primary home or place of abode is that home or place in which his habitation is fixed and to which a person, whenever he is absent, has the present intention of returning after a departure or absence therefrom, regardless of the duration of absence.” If a student’s home is in Seattle or Boise, but they attend college in Moscow, then they vote absentee in King County or Ada County.

The Idaho Secretary of State clearly dictates that, “The establishment of domicile in Idaho occurs when a person is physically present in Idaho primarily for purposes other than educational.” Here are some questions listed to determine domicile for voting purposes:

  • “What is the residence listed on the applicant’s driver’s license?”
  • “What address did he list as his residence on his last income tax return?” Not likely a dorm.
  • “Has the applicant registered to vote elsewhere?” Vote absentee where your home is.
  • “Where does the applicant keep his personal property?” At his parents’ home? Then vote there.
  • “Where does the applicant maintain his checking and saving accounts?”
  • “If the applicant owns an automobile, where is it registered?” If he’s driving his parents’ car, where is it registered?
  • “Does the applicant live year-round at his claimed domicile, or does he divide it elsewhere?” If he goes “home” for breaks and summer, then Moscow is not his home.
  • “What residence does the applicant list on his selective service registration, hunting or fishing licenses, insurance policies, or other official papers and documents which required a statement of residence or address?” Not likely a dorm address.

A temporary college student from out of town cannot answer these questions in any satisfactory way that would allow him to vote in Moscow’s local elections. However, in Moscow you can register by simply showing an Amazon digital invoice with a local shipping address or even a letter mailed to a local address. Neither demonstrates the domicile to be in Moscow.

The Secretary of State’s final paragraph is the real kicker, and I quote it in full: “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. Registering to vote is a serious matter which should only be done after proper reflection. It should be noted that there is no federal right to vote anywhere in the United States for the office of President. State laws control registration and voting and State residency requirements must be met.”

We should encourage every US citizen of age to vote. But they should do so legally from home.