By Samm Quinn
INDIANAPOLIS – Legislation that could ban out-of-state students from voting in their college towns met significant opposition in a committee meeting Wednesday.
Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville, discusses her bill before The House Elections committe on Wednesday. Photo by Lindsay Wenning, TheStatehouseFile.com
The bill’s author, Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville, said it would require out-of-state students who want to vote in Indiana to prove to county clerks that they are in the state for reasons other than attending college.
“Residency has always been an issue concerning elections,” Mayfield said.
She argued the bill would keep people from voting in two different states, which is a Class D felony. She also said students registered in the county they attend school overinflates voter rolls, which contributes “heavily” to the cost of county elections.
Opponents of the bill say it will disenfranchise students from voting.
Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, said he was concerned about how students would prove they intend to be in Indiana for a longer time than their college experience.
“This is too important to disenfranchise a person in one place and not the other,” Battles said.
A DePauw student points out the flaws of the districts in Bartholomew County in The House Elections Committee on Wednesday. Photo by Lindsay Wenning, TheStatehouseFile.com
Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson testified for the bill, saying she doesn’t believe it will be tough for students to prove they intend to be Indiana residents. Goshen College is located in Elkhart County.
“This bill is simply trying to clear up for students where they’re suppose to vote,” she said.
But Chaim Julian, who attended Indiana University Bloomington and is a deputy clerk in the city, said the bill is wrong for students.
“How do you know a student is not going to come to Bloomington, fall in love and stay?” he asked.
“Voting is a right,” he said. “We should not have to prove our right to vote.”
Julia Vaughn, a policy director for Common Cause Indiana, said there isn’t enough evidence of voter fraud to make registering to vote more difficult for students.
She said the problem is that there is confusion on voter registration and elections in the state in general.
“What we don’t need to do is send the message to students that we don’t want your participation. As I read this bill, that’s the message I get,” she said.
Nancy Guyott, president of the AFL-CIO, said she opposes the bill because she’s originally from out of state.
“If you want to accelerate a brain drain, we should send the signal that those who come here, the talented youth from across this country who come to Indiana to get an education, that they’re not welcome participants in our community,” she said.
Aaron Dy, president of IU’s College Democrats, said he registered many students to vote last fall. The organization also worked to educate students on voter registration and election rules.
He said voter fraud isn’t as much a state issue.
“I think it’s a valid point,” he said. “It’s more of a national issue.”
The Evansville native said it’s important to be sure no person gets two votes, but it’s more important for every person to have one vote, and this bill would impact that.
“I feel I am a citizen and resident of Bloomington,” he said.
The bill also includes a mandate for counties to recertify district boundaries after each U.S. Census counties and will allow counties to use electronic signature pads and electronic poll lists.
The committee took no action on the bill. Lawmakers plan to amend it and vote next week.
Samm Quinn is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
Correction: As originally posted, this story incorrectly identified the date of the meeting. It has been corrected to say the meeting took place on Wednesday. You can see all corrections posted to TheStatehouseFile.com at http://thestatehousefile.com/info/corrections/.