Student Voting

A local candidate here in The Triangle (NC) was young, hip, and aimed almost all of her campaigning efforts towards the plethoria of college campuses (campi?) in this area.

She finished 8th, and complained about low voter turnout for college students.

Now, I don’t want to get into a GREAT DEBATE about student voting, more to the point, I have a GENERAL QUESTION about the eligibility of student voting.

What I wonder is how many college students are actually eligible to vote in this area? I am not aware if the demographics in this area are differentfor this, but overall, I was under the impression that most students keep official residence at the place they came from, usually wherever Mom & Dad is. This would make them able to vote in the jurisdictions they do list as official residency of (maybe with absentee ballots), but not where the school is, right?

If I am not mistaken, I would assume that the local politico mentioned above was preaching to folks who, predominantly, could not support her anyway. Am I mistaken?

Yer pal,

Actually when I was in college, SUNY Oneonta, students could register to vote or change their residency to the City of Oneonta. As long as you list your residence as the college, or your local apartment, then you vote in that area. I always voted where I grew up simply because I only lived in Oneonta part time my Jr and Sr years. My sister voted in the city where she attended college. Depends on the student’s preference and what they, and the board of elections, view as their primary residence. If you change your permanent residence you have to notify the board of elections within a certain period of time prior to the election. Absentee ballots as well have to be postmarked by a certain date. As to the percentage of students that change their residence for voting purposes, I have no idea.

College students have always had a low level of interest in voting or politics, even on issues that they should care about (when they lowered the drinking age to 18, the politicians knew that 18-21 voters didn’t care that they were losing a right). I find this appalling.
It may vary from state to state, but in NY, a college student can register in the voting district that covers their dorm. Most don’t care.

Read “Sundials” in the new issue of Aboriginal Science Fiction.

This is probably a sticky issue at a lot of university towns. I know here in Champaign-Urbana a lot of students register locally. There is usually a campus push to get students registered. The locals have a hard time of it since they view students as transients (at best). The students say “Hey we live here for the better part of 4 years. We should have a say in the local government.” To which the locals reply that the only ordanances most college kids care about are the ones that affect the bars.

Anyway, at least here in Illinois you can pretty much register to vote anywhere you hang your hat (Motor Voter).

“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.”

Computer science sage Robert Wilensky

Upon further thought on the subject, I also think that it is usually advantageous to both student and parents is the student keeps his or her “official residence” at home.

It helps the parent because of taxes, and it helps the student because the student can be kept on the parents insurance (car & health) for a longer time if they are still living at home, even if they’re not REALLY living at home.

Yes? No?

Yer pal,

In-state tuition at NC state universities is VERY low – roughly $1,600 a year. (Soon to be hiked to $3,000 if the powers that be have their way, but that’s still at the low end for public universities). Out-of-state tuition is around $9,000 a year. Therefore, if a student is from out of state it’s to their advantage to apply for North Carolina residency ASAP. Most public universities around here are fairly strict about whom they consider a resident; generally, a student has to reside in NC for twelve consecutive months, get a local driver’s license, pay state taxes and register to vote before they’ll even consider looking at his or her application. The sooner you do all these things after moving to NC, the better. Also, they look at how much applicants have actually contributed to the community (do they vote in local elections, do community service, that sort of thing. Can you tell I’ve recently been through this process?) Obviously, none of this applies to students at private colleges, but at NC state schools the payoff for registering to vote locally is pretty big.

N. B. The tuition figures I quoted are for the grad school at UNC; they may vary slightly from school to school. But in general, the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is considerable.

Ignoring the matter which Fretful brought up, my understanding is that, for an appeal to college voters to affect an election, it would have to be preceded by a strong college voter registration drive which convinced students of their stake in the community (and voting in general.) As has been said above, many students don’t vote at all.

I personally chose to register at home and vote absentee, which my local election board promoted by sending out absentee ballots to all of us without even being asked. I felt no ties to my college location at all. Perhaps kids who have moved every couple years of their lives would feel college to be a positively stable environment but not me. I lived in a dorm. I ate in the dorm (usually.)

The cases I’ve seen had some politician simply say, ‘Hey, you college kids. You can make a difference in this local election.’ They never bothered to explain why we’d want to (rather than voting at home where our parents at least paid taxes.)

I ran this question by my mother at lunch, she is a board member of the League of Women Voters of NY State and editor of their paper. She was showing me an e-mail from the son of a friend of hers who goes to Bard College down in Dutchess County NY and who has had trouble getting registered locally while at school. About 150 students tried to register with Dutchess County Board of Elections, they were sent questionaires about where they have their bank accounts, and other residency questions. Only one was registered and the group of students has started an activist group, SAVE (Students ? for Voter Equality) They plan on filing a lawsuit in the near future against the County Board of Elections. Last year students of Vasser, just down the road, filed suit against the same people and it got tossed out because of an evidenciary procedure problem. However across the county line at Marist college the students there haven’t had many problems at all registering locally. Apparently the local Board of Elections makes decisions on the individual requests but they do have to follow the letter of the law and it looks like Dutchess County might be in deep in the near future.

A forward of the afforementioned e-mail, with personal info. removed.

dear j,
thank you so much for writing. a lot has happened since the email you
from my mom. i don’t remember exactly where we were at at that particular point,
but i’ll try not to be redundant. SAVE (student activists for voting equality,
which includes Bard and Vassar students) has been trying to collect evidence for
a lawsuit by getting as many students as possible to try to register. we
submitted about 150 applications from bard. everyone who applied, as far as we
know, got back a letter telling them that their residency status was
questionnable and a questionaire asking, among other things, what kind of
residence they lived in, where their posessions and bank accounts were, where
they got their money from, etc. only one of the people who returned the
questionnaire was allowed to register, and for no apparent reason as far as we
can tell. everyone else was rejected, including me, despite the fact that my
license and registration now list Bard as my residence. grrr. the only
requirement to be able to vote, as im sure you know, is that you be a resident
of the area for 30 days in advance of the election.
the dutchess county election commissioners, bill egan (dem) and bill
paroli (repub.) (who is currently under inditement for corruption and still
hanging on to his office despite the county legislature asking hium to resign
and trying to with hold his pay, apparently because he is such a reprehensible
scumbag, though don’t quote me on that) both claim that there is nothing that
they can do about it, and that the law simply says that we are not allowed to
vote. egan even claims that he supports students’ right to vote, but that he
can’t do anything about it. the oversight people at the state board of elections
told us that what the dutchess board is doing is illegal, but apparently there
is little they can/will do about it. there are legal precedents in other
counties, including ulster county, right across the river, where students have
had their right to vote at school upheld in lawsuits. egan claims that these
precedents are meaningless, and that if we want to vote in dutchess county we
have to have a lawsuit here–how’s that for democracy? vassar students launched
one last spring, but the lawyer they had was only a divorce lawyer, and the case
was thrown out because of a technicality having to do with the presentation of
evidence–a viable lawsuit is still possible, we are in the process of getting a
lawyer, and the nyaclu legal guy we have been talking to has told us the case is
easily winnable.
that’s about it overall. the thursday before election day we held a press
conference outside the b of e in poughkeepsie. it was very well attended, we
got a lot of tv, and we even made the front page of the poughkeepsie journal the
next day. if you send me your address i can probably mail you a copy of the
press packet fyi, which includes a sample letter and questionnaire, a copy of
the relevant bits of the elction law, a history of the case, and out coalition
statement and list of partners (see below). i dont have an easily emailable copy
of the statement here, but i should be able to get you one within a day or
so–it would be great if the league would like to sign on in suppport. the heads
of the campaign are, at bard, michael chameides ( and at vassar
matt kavannagh (
i feel like this is kind of a rushed summary, so please let me know if
you have any other questions. i really appreciate you writing, and i hope you
are well.
Ken M
Bard College
Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504
ps: the coalition list follows, fyi:
Student Activists for Voting Equality

Voting Rights Coalition Partners

Dr. Leon Botstein, President, Bard College
Dr. Frances D. Fergusson, President, Vassar College
Dr. Roger Bowen, President, SUNY New Paltz
Dr. Stephen R. Rock, Chair, Department of Political Science, Vassar College
Dr. Joel Kovel, Candidate for President of the United States, Green Party
Judy Green, Vassar College Class of 1972, Candidate for Mayor of

Joel Tyner, Candidate for County Legislature
Irvin M. Miller, Candidate for County Executive
Ann Barcher, Attorney, Candidate for Supervisor, Town of Poughkeepsie
Robert Haskins, Vice President, Planned Parenthood of the Mid-Hudson Valley
New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)
College Republicans of America
College Democrats of America
New York State Federation of College Republicans
Green Party, Dutchess County
Alumni Association of Vassar College
Vassar Student Association
Student Activist Union of Vassar College
Vassar Greens
Student-Labor Coalition of Bard College
Earth Coalition of Bard College
Mid-Hudson National Peoples Campaign
International Action Center, Mid-Hudson Branch
Hudson River Sloop, Clearwater
Free The Planet!

Satan, in response to your questions about student residence and the advantages thereof-

This is probably all more than vaguely illegal, but my experience nonetheless:

I (a-hem) have an, er, friend, who moved down to Florida to attend a highly ranked, but public college. She got here license and plates, immediately, and voter stuff shortly thereafter. This was mainly because both of her parents resided in states where she’d never actually physically lived. Nonetheless, her father continued to claim her, and she continued to use his health insurance and immediately family member AAA auxillary membership.

The next year, she dropped out of school, but continued to live in Florida- partially off child-support money from her father, partially off the soup kitchen, partially off part-time jobs. She asked her parents NOT to claim her on her taxes, because she wished to return to school the next year as a state resident. She continued using the ‘rents’ insurance, etc.

She returns to the university as a state resident. She believes herself to be a state resident. Most importantly, the state believes her to be a resident. SHe turns 21 and is no longer covered as a minor dependant on father’s insurance. So he (what a great guy!) continues her coverage for her, at a much higher cost. Because she won’t be required to apply for state residency again, father requests to claim her on his taxes that year. He does.

Said student graduates, moves away to gradschool in a different state, now pays for own insurance. Has local license for convenience, has not registered to vote cause she doesn’t care, still uses “family-auxillary membership” of AAA. . .
for a state she’s never lived in.

Short answer: Naw, it really doesn’t make a difference.

FYI, I am a college student, and I am registered to vote in the town I go to school in, not the town I grew up in. (They’re in the same state - maybe if they weren’t I’d vote absenteer.) A former housemate of mine told me that she remained registered in her hometown because she didn’t think it was right to vote in a place you weren’t going to live in for a long period of time, but I don’t really agree. I live here now, that’s enough. I’m not sure how it works in other states, but here in CA, registering to vote is exeedingly easy. There are certainly no restrictions based on length of residency.