When I was a student 60 years ago at Michigan State, I was discouraged from voting there even though I was a veteran and had been working at General Motors in Detroit. On Tuesday, Dale Courtney shared on this page that he effectively wants to suppress the student vote. But students voting in Moscow (and other) elections should not be discouraged. Students here have an opportunity to get involved in learning about issues that affect them, including in municipal elections. They are affected by the decisions made by local government bodies, especially Moscow’s City Council and Latah County. And if they live here, they should not be refused voter registration.
Students often leave their parent’s address on their driver’s licenses because their Moscow address is likely to change every year or even every semester. But they may well intend to stay in Moscow for the foreseeable future. Who knows where they will work or live after school? They can also stay on their parent’s health insurance until they are 26. The reason these types of address changes are not mandatory is because they could be considered a poll tax. The residency questions on the Idaho Secretary of State’s website Courtney refers to are not absolute, nor do they apply only to students. Where is the hue and cry against voting privileges for grandparents who only visit their Idaho summer homes to see the grandkids, and then live in Arizona in the winter? We seem to have no problems there.
Few college students turn 18 while they are in college, rather they usually do so during their senior year of high school. We should encourage students to be engaged from the youngest age possible. Many other people who aren’t students register to vote after being registered somewhere else. Idaho law says as long as you have lived here for 30 days you can register here, and virtually all students have lived in Moscow for 30 days prior to the November elections.
It’s true that students may leave Moscow for a few months to visit family or pursue internships. This shouldn’t disqualify them from voting here. What to do when not at school is dependent on employment and being able to live as inexpensively as possible. Many students are taking on debt that they will be paying for many years. Should we fault them for economizing by not changing vehicle registration or not living in Moscow during the summer?
By Courtney’s logic, the answer is yes, we should.
Allowing students to vote in city elections doesn’t hurt the city; students are affected by decisions just as much as those of us who have lived here for decades. Around the world students are leading the quest for a fairer democracy. Getting them involved as soon as possible in grassroots campaigns helps establish a lifelong commitment to being involved in the democratic process whether as a Republican, Democrat, or Independent. Involved citizens strengthen our nation and all that it stands for. If you want to vote in this election but are not registered, you can do so at your polling place on Election Day.
Bill Parks is a retired finance professor and founder of NRS Inc., a Moscow-based paddle sports accessory maker that is 100 percent employee-owned.