Republican Says College Students ‘Dilute’ the Vote and He Wants to Stop Them
One Arizona lawmaker wants to crack down on ‘temporary’ residents like left-wing college students, but not right-wing snowbirds.
If college students are cramping your legislative agenda, just strip their right to vote.
That’s the latest proposal from an Arizona Republican. State Rep. Bob Thorpe accuses college students of “diluting” elections in the districts where they live and attend school. His proposal would bar students from using their college addresses to register to vote, even if they live in their dormitory year-round. The move would suppress a major left-leaning voter block, particularly in Thorpe’s district, which is home to Northern Arizona University, and where constituents recently voted to raise the minimum wage, despite Thorpe’s opposition.
“These students do not influence the elections within their home communities, where their families and neighbors live, but instead they dilute the votes of the local full-time residents within the college communities,” Thorpe told Courthouse News in a statement.
Thorpe told the outlet that he had yet to draft the legislation, but that he envisions mailing absentee ballots to what he described as the students’ permanent addresses: likely their families homes, where the students no longer live. Thorpe did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Thorpe previously introduced a similar version of the bill, which stalled earlier this year when fellow Republican Rep. Doug Coleman refused to give it a hearing in the state’s House Government Committee.
“Just the basic premise of the bill of actually saying that they couldn't choose where their residence was, even if it was where they were living, I had issues with,'' Coleman told Arizona’s Capitol Media Services in January.
The original bill would have amended Arizona’s voter registration rules to require voters have a physical address in the state, along with “an intent to remain” at that address. “A dormitory address or other temporary college or university address may not be used for determining residency … and is deemed to be evidence of a temporary address with intent to return to some other permanent address,” the bill specified.
The bill does not curb the voting rights of part-time residents who live in the state during winter months, a group that skews more conservative than most college students, the Arizona Republic notes. These snowbirds spend less time in the state than full-time college students, but are evidently not “diluting” the vote.
Liberal colleges are a legislative bogeyman for Thorpe, the chairman of the Arizona House Government and Higher Education Committee, who has introduced multiple bills cracking down on campuses since the beginning of the year. In January, he introduced a bill barring all public schools and colleges from using student activity fees to pay for “any political speech, political activity or other political purpose.”
Thorpe also this year introduced legislation that would prevent those schools from teaching courses that promote “social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class or other class of people.”
“The courses don’t represent the values of Arizonans. They certainly don’t represent my values,” Thorpe said of the bill in an interview with the Daily Caller. “The citizenry should have some voice in what is taught at universities and what is not.”
Schools would be allowed to teach courses on race, provided they only covered the “accurate history of any ethnic group.” The bill does not specify who would determine the “accurate history” of an ethnic group, although Thorpe’s own biases on ethnic groups are subject to debate. The lawmaker locked his Twitter account over racist tweets in 2013.
“Three 15 yr old blacks beat 13 yr old white boy, where’s liberal press, the racial outcry now?” Thorpe tweeted. He also accused then-Attorney General Eric Holder of giving black men favorable treatment in the criminal justice system. “Why is Holder now Soft on Crime? Perhaps: blacks = 12%-13% US population, but make up 40.1% (2.1 million) of male inmates in jail or prison!”
College voters have also recently contributed to a major policy loss for Thorpe in his home city of Flagstaff. In 2016, the district voted to raise Flagstaff’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. The strongest support for the proposition came from precincts around Northern Arizona University. Thorpe opposed the proposition, and has since introduced legislation calling to repeal the policy and bar other Arizona cities from setting their own minimum wages.
“A uniform minimum wage is a matter of statewide concern,” his new legislation claims. Northern Arizona University students, many of whom work service industry jobs alongside their studies, might disagree.
But if Thorpe has his way, the students’ votes won’t affect him.