Monday, September 15, 2008

Tennessee Makes Voting Extremely Difficult for Out-of-State College Students

According to this NPR story and this article, Tennessee state law has no love for college students who are interested in exercising their right to vote. Tennessee is one of two states (Idaho being the other) whose law says that "students who don't affirmatively plan to live in the state after graduating cannot be residents for voting purposes." In other words, out-of-state students cannot register to vote in Tennessee unless they somehow demonstrate that they will remain in the Volunteer State after graduation. (I have no idea how one legally goes about doing such a thing.) Essentially, out-of-state students either drive home on Election Day, arrange for an absentee ballot, or don't vote.

Tennessee also makes it difficult for Tennessee students who study out of state to vote as Tennesseans. State law says that "first-time voters who register by mail are required to vote in person, making absentee voting impossible for students attending distant schools to vote in their hometowns." Again, Tennessee is one of only two states to have such a restrictive policy. (Michigan is the other this time.)

At some point, our state legislators decided to make voting as difficult as possible for college students who study outside their home state. Not surprisingly, Tennessee was among the "states with the lowest voter turnout among 18 to 24 year-olds in the 2004 presidential election."

At least one of these policies has to change before 2010. We must decided that a) a student becomes a resident in the state where he or she attends college and may vote as a resident of that state OR b) a student who attends an out-of-state college remains a resident of his or her state of origin and should be permitted to vote absetee even if he or she is a first-time voter OR c) a student studying outside of his or her home state should be allowed to declare residence in one of the two states and vote in that state without restriction. Voting is too important to be subject to so many constraints.


Blogger gavin richardson said...

it isn't like being in a different state is another country with different visa's.. just a quality & numbers control. so address that and issue solved.

i voted absentee so many times in my college years as i was registered in new jersey, till i got residency, and lived in alabama. driving home was out of the question

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Earl said...

On first impression it would appear that Tennessee's policy for voting by out-of-state college student prevents non-resident students from having influence on local or state elections. In college and seminary years I lived out of state and simply used an absentee ballot. Today the process of obtaining an absentee ballot is not difficult but does require some effort on the part of the voter. If a student wants to participate in the electoral process, there is no real hindrance to voting.

5:37 AM  

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