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Feb 13 / Corey Peterson

Indiana Lawmaker Proposes to Bar Out-of-State Students from Voting

UPDATE:  On Thursday, February 28 the House Committee on Elections and Apportionment amended HB 1311 removing the provision addressing nonresident students. The Committee added a clause requiring the census data advisory committee to “study the standards for determining residency for purposes of voting, candidacy, and holding office in Indiana.” We expect HB 1311 to go before the House for a vote in the near future.

Indiana college students could face greater difficulty registering to vote in their college community for the next election. House Bill 1311, introduced by Rep. Peggy Mayfield in January, creates additional voting barriers for thousands of college students attending public universities in Indiana.

Under HB 1311, citizens who move into Indiana for educational purposes will not gain residency if they pay a nonresident tuition rate at the educational institution. Without residency, these students cannot register to vote in Indiana. Mayfield explains that she introduced HB 1311 to resolve the issue of “who is an Indiana resident. We’re having people who are not necessarily residents voting in our elections.”

At Indiana University (IU) only students with one parent or legal guardian residing in Indiana, or who are 21 or older and have been physically present in Indiana for at least 12 months for a predominant purpose other than higher education can gain residency for tuition purposes.

HB1311, if passed, would effectively bar many IU students under the age of 21 from being able to register to vote in the district regardless of their intent to remain residents of Indiana after graduation.  Students at other public universities would be barred from registering to vote until they become financially independent and have been domiciled in Indiana for a minimum of 12 consecutive months before the first day of classes and for a predominant purpose other than attending an institution of higher education.

One of the issues with HB 1311 is that the proposed legislation would single-out only those students attending public institutions of higher education and not those attending private institutions such as Notre Dame and DePauw University. These private institutions do not apply different tuition rates to ‘resident’ and ‘nonresident’ students. Therefore HB 1311 discriminates only against students attending public universities in Indiana.

Lee Rowland, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, noted another issue with HB1311: “conditioning voting rights on a 12-month residency is so clearly unconstitutional that it would be an utter waste of the legislature’s time to consider such a bill.”

Indiana’s constitution provides that any citizen of the United States who is at least 18 years of age and who has been a resident of a precinct 30 days immediately preceding an election can vote in that precinct in that election. Furthermore, the Supreme Court in Dunn v. Blumstein (92 S.Ct. 995 (1972) held that durational residence requirements of 12 months were unconstitutional when longer than necessary to complete the administrative task for registering voters and establishing eligibility lists for elections.

In addition to wasting the legislature’s time, this latest measure to suppress student voters has the potential to disenfranchise thousand of college students who live, study, shop, work, and socialize in their college communities. Student organizations like IU College Democrats have voiced public opposition to HB 1311 as proposed.

The House Elections and Apportionment Committee heard testimony on HB 1311 last week and may be voted on as early as today.

Follow HB 1311 and other youth voting bills by signing up for Project Vote’s weekly Election Legislation digest here.


Corey Peterson is a second-year law student at American University’s Washington College of Law. She joins Project Vote as legal intern for spring 2013.


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