Why is it every time I see a piece of bad legislation in the Arizona legislature, this guy’s name appears to be attached to it? What the heck is wrong with voters living in legislative district 6 (specifically in Navajo, Gila and Yavapai Counties)? You ought to be embarrassed to send someone as backwards as this to the Arizona legislature.
The latest bad legislation is yet another GOP voter suppression plan sponsored by Rep. Bob Thorpe still seeking to bar student voting on campus:
The proposal by Rep. Bob Thorpe would put a provision that students who want to vote would be able to do so only by signing up to get an early ballot from the voting precinct where they were living before they went to college, presumably the address of their parents.
More to the point, they would not be able to use their college address. And that would apply not only to those who live in a campus dormitory but even those who have off-campus apartments or houses.
This is where Howard Fischer in his reporting should have stated up front (he puts it at the very end of his report) that the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed (no opinion) that this was unconstitutional in SYMM v. U.S., 439 U.S. 1105 (1979), in which the Court summarily affirmed United States v. Texas, 445 F.Supp. 1245 (S.D.Tex. 1978), holding unconstitutional the denial to Prairie View students of the presumption of bona fide residency extended to other Waller County students. The three-judge District Court panel relied on a series of college student voting rights precedents under the Voting Rights Act and the 26th Amendment.
In other words, this issue has long ago been decided. Yet every election cycle some jurisdiction tries to keep college students from voting where they are attending college, and every election cycle this unconstitutional voter suppression effort is enjoined by the courts. The baffling part is the regularity with which jurisdictions keep trying to do this even when the law is clearly established.
Thorpe, whose district includes Northern Arizona University, said the students who vote in elections — including his own — are really just part-time residents. More to the point, he contends allowing them to participate in local elections means they “unfairly influence local elections.”
“These students do not influence the elections within their home communities, where their family and neighbors live, but instead they dilute the votes of the local full-time residents within the college communities,” Thorpe said in a prepared statement. “This legislation will prevent unfair influence in local elections and unethical voter recruitment efforts.”
Well, clearly Thorpe is wrong about this, or how could someone as embarrasssing as Thorpe keep winning elections in District 6? There are obviously not enough “progressive” college students — what he is really concerned about — living in district 6 to vote this right-wing reactionary out of office. They are more than offset by older white retirees — some of whom are part-time “snowbirds” — who are GOP voters living in other counties.
A similar proposal by Thorpe introduced earlier this year died when Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction, refused to even give it a hearing in the House Government Committee, which he chairs.
“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 Capitol Media Services.
Potentially more significant, he said Thorpe’s legislation made what he saw as an unjustified conclusion that a student’s residency is with mom and dad.
“I think residency is where a person lives,” Coleman said.
Potentially seeking to blunt that objection, Thorpe’s new version has an escape clause of sorts.
Under his proposal, a student could vote where he or she attends college by obtaining a state-issued photo ID, presumably a driver’s license, with that school address. But that option would be available only to those who live off campus; students in dormitories would get no such right.
Thorpe refused to be interviewed about his plan, agreeing to provide only written responses, though a House Republican spokesman, to inquiries about the legislation. Asked why he believes the legislation is necessary, Thorpe wrote back saying only that it would “end the disenfranchisement of permanent residents by temporary students who influence their local elections.”
But Thorpe declined to respond to other specific questions about motive, though he did acknowledge he wants to keep students from influencing the outcome of elections.
Here is where Howard Fischer plays devil’s advocate for Thorpe’s partisan gamesmanship:
There is some evidence that has been the case.
Most notable was the 2016 vote by Flagstaff residents to eventually move the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, a measure he opposed.
It passed by a margin of 54-46 percent citywide. But in multiple areas around the NAU campus the margin was closer to 2-1, and even approached 3-1 at two precincts which include parts of the campus — enough to blunt the vote in some residential precincts where it failed.
Thorpe himself also did not do well in the three precincts in and immediately around the campus.
Out of 1,280 ballots cast, he got 324 votes; fellow Republican Brenda Barton got 327 while lone Democrat Alex Martinez tallied 788.
But Thorpe’s lack of support was not limited to those living on and near the NAU campus, with Martinez outpolling both him and Barton in the entire Coconino County part of the legislative district. The Republicans won the general election anyway with strong support from voters in Navajo, Gila and Yavapai (i.e., those older white retirees — some of whom are part-time “snowbirds” — who are GOP voters).
Even Arizona’s queen of voter suppression, Secretary of State Michele Reagan, is not supportive of Rep. Thorpe’s unconstitutonal voter supression plan, which tells you just how eff’ed up this is.
Secretary of State Michele Reagan, who is the state’s chief elections officer, was wary of what Thorpe is proposing.
“Our office has committed to make it easier for students to register to vote,” she said in response to questions by Capitol Media Services. “In fact, we are working with Arizona State University, the Arizona Public Interest Research Group and Rock the Vote on a pilot project to encourage students to register to vote when they are registering for class.”
Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts said students have told his boss that they “consider the place they spend the majority of their time to be their residence.”
Fischer concludes his report with “Even if Thorpe can get a hearing this coming year — and get the votes in the Republican-controlled legislature — there is another hurdle: It may be illegal,” briefly mentioning, without citation, the legal precedents above.
Thorpe’s voter suppression plan should never even get a hearing in the Arizona legislature. And this embarrassment should be voted out of office next year.