After agreeing with Republicans on virtually everything so far this year, I was actually looking forward to parting ways with my party on a pair of election law issues this week, but it seems that GOP leadership, like me, isn’t inclined to support Greg Sorg’s HH176, an unwarranted assault on college students, and HG 223 which would eliminate one of the best things this state has ever done, same day voter registration.
It seems that Rep. Sorg, whom I personally like a great deal, may be the maverick, not me.
I testified against HB 176 and after sleeping on it for a night, I’m more offended than I was by it yesterday.
Republican leadership agrees that this is certainly unconstitutional, in violation of the equal protection clause for sure, but even if it were constitutional, it would be a terrible idea.
The bill basically says that when you go away to college, you must vote from in the city or town you were in prior to entering college. Small government Republicans and Libertarians especially should be incensed at this nanny state approach. In effect, this bill says that people don’t have the right to decide where they want to live. What worse incursion into our freedoms could there possibly be.
Oh, I know, defenders of the bill will say that you can live wherever you want; you just have to vote where you were prior to entering college. To me, that’s a distinction without a difference, and this bill enslaves our young people.
Yes, I was young once. After graduating from high school in Vergennes, Vermont, I headed off to Plymouth State College. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in Plymouth, but I knew damn well that I never wanted to go back to Vermont to live.
Had this bill been in effect, I would have been forced to vote in a place I cared nothing about and had no intention of ever returning to.
That’s simply wrong.
As it turned out, I fell in love with Plymouth and lived in that area (Ashland for a while) eight years after I graduated from Plymouth State. While a student, I had no interest in voting in local Plymouth elections, but I certainly felt entitled to vote there for state and federal elections.
I trust college students are the same today, and Republicans make a big mistake by trying to deny them the right to vote where they want to live. Probably 95 percent of these students have no interest in taking over the local town by voting in off year elections, at least not until this bill came forward. Now that you’ve tried to deny them the right to vote, maybe they’ll try to make an example and rush out to vote in town elections this year. I know that’s what I would have done.
I’m especially offended by Rep. Sorg’s assertion that college students are like “transient inmates with a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce.”
In fact I get angrier every time I reread that sentence. My college days were the happiest of my life and among the most productive. I was neither inexperienced nor ignorant. I was as qualified to vote then (perhaps more so) than I am today, but I certainly was not qualified or interested in going back to Vermont to vote (not that there’s anything wrong with Vermont—there just was something very wrong with it for me).
That gets us to the crux of the argument. I should be able to decide where I want to live and vote, not government. How any Libertarian could not be outraged by this bill is beyond me! That most young people tend to be more liberal (and Democratic) may well be true, but Republicans should work to change that, to espouse principles of individual freedom, and this bill is a step in exactly the opposite direction.
I’ve always believed there is far less voter fraud than members of my party assert. One Republican leader told us Thursday that he heard of Durham students boasting how they had voted by absentee ballot back in Massachusetts then registered and voted in Durham. I suspect that’s the kind of thing some people might boast about but most would certainly never do.
With modern technology, we can “purge” the checklist quite easily today. When you register to vote, officials in that location inform those of your old voting location who then remove you from the check list. Of course it’s not a perfect system, but this Sorgian cure is much worse than the malady (which is overstated to begin with).
As to same day voter registration, I love it. We are a mobile society; people move frequently and have every right to do so. If we want to increase voter turnout (and I’m certainly not one of those who believe people should be forced to vote), same day registration is the answer. It’s not what’s causing fraud. Anyone who wants to break the law and vote in several places the same day doesn’t need same day voter registration to do it. Such a person should be prosecuted and sent to jail, but the rest of us should not be inconvenienced because a few Republicans believe, contrary to all evidence, that voter fraud is rampant.
Whew! I’m glad that off my chest and yes, I will be prepared to say it again on the House floor should HB 176 or 223 come out of Election Law with ought to pass recommendations.