Rep. Bob Thorpe wants to suppress NAU college voters, again

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Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, is making another unconstitutional bid at blocking students from voting where they go to school, something Howard Fischer somehow fails to mention in this report. Bill would block voting by Arizona students here only for school:

The proposal by Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, would require residence for voting purposes be based on actual physical presence “with an intent to remain.”

His HB 2461 would spell out that anyone who is living in a dormitory “or other temporary college or university address” is presumed to be there only temporarily and is there “with intent to return to some other permanent address.”

A separate provision actually could have even more far-reaching implications.

It would ban the use of any address “at which the individual does not intend to reside for 12 months of each year.” And that, in turn, could create problems for people who consider Arizona their home but may spend several months a year elsewhere.

Let’s stop right here. In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed a ruling that holding college students to a different standard of residency than other people or requiring them to swear they will remain in the community after graduation violates the 26th Amendment in the landmark case of Symm v. United States. The court upheld college students’ right to register to vote at either their college address or their previous home address.

So what Rep. Thorpe is proposing is unconstitutional.

Thorpe said it’s not his intent to throw hurdles in the path of students who want to be politically involved.

This falsehood is belied by Howard Fischer’s later reporting:

“I’ve had numerous constituents who have come to me and are as just as angry as all get-out, including business people up here in Flag, when they have a student who’s only living here six months out of the year who then changes the dynamics of an election,” Thorpe said.

There is some evidence that has happened.

Most notable was the 2016 vote by Flagstaff residents to eventually change the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, a measure Thorpe opposed. It was approved by a margin of 54% to 46%.

But in precincts around the Northern Arizona University campus, it passed with a 2-1 edge — even close to 3-1 at two precincts that include parts of the campus. And that was enough to blunt the vote of some residential precincts where the measure failed.

“They’re really hurting now,” Thorpe said. “I’ve had restaurant owners and hotel owners, you name it, that are just reeling under the minimum wage.”

Thorpe also acknowledged he has not done particularly well in his election bids, not just in the precincts and immediately around the campus, but in the entire Coconino County part of his legislative district. He lost his home county but won his 2018 reelection bid by just 577 votes only because of support from Yavapai, Gila and Navajo counties.

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“I want them to vote,” he said, but on issues that he believes affects their friends and parents. “For them to be in a community part time and change the dynamics of a local election for people who live here 12 months out of the year and they’re only living here part time, I think that’s really unfair philosophically.”

Ditto, he said, on part-year residents.

“I think it’s just as bad for them to vote in Arizona (as it is) for a kid that lives in Tucson but going to school for five months, six months out of the year in Flagstaff,” Thorpe said. “I think the snowbird should be voting in Minnesota and the kid from Tucson should be voting in Tucson.”

This is all about preventing NAU college students from voting where they attend college, an unconstitutional act. Thorpe wants to suppress the vote of college students who tend to vote for his political opponents. The Arizona Restaurant Association, a Chamber of Commerce organization, wants to exact revenge against those college students for the Flagstaff minimum wage ordinance. (Plotting another minimum wage ordinance repeal effort?)

House legal counsel and the House Rules Committee should disapprove of this bill, but historically, Republicans frequently have their unconstitutional bills approved for a committee vote, because IOKIYAR. Anything can happen.

Thorpe tried this several years ago. [See, State bill could restrict the voting rights of NAU students (2017).] Then-Secretary of State Michele Reagan, said her office was “committed to make it easier for students to register to vote.” And Reagan said she was working with Arizona State University, the Arizona Public Interest Research Group and Rock the Vote on a project to encourage students to register to vote when they are registering for class.

Current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is the state’s chief election official, said what Thorpe is proposing works against what she has been trying to do.

“We have a pretty clear record here in my office of working to try to engage students — make it easier for them to be able to register to vote in the place that they choose to do so,” she said. And Hobbs, a Democrat, said having students be able to vote where they go to school — and where they spend most of the year — “helps them be more engaged in their communities here.”

“I don’t know why we wouldn’t be encouraging that,” she said.

As for “snowbirds” (dual residency):

Hobbs said her concern would be to ensure that people who have residences in more than one state vote only once. Beyond that, she said, “there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to vote where they choose.”

More practical, she said, is what happens to someone who may spend 11 months of the year at one location and a month at another home somewhere else. As Hobbs reads Thorpe’s bill, “you’re totally disenfranchising them from being able to vote.”

Contact your state legislators to kill this unconstitutional voter suppression bill.




1 COMMENT

  1. So would this bill disallow voting by residents of military housing as well?

    What’s really amazing is how little thought has clearly gone into this. It’s legislation written by your drunk uncle. I can imagine introducing it in an election year in hopes of affecting the election, knowing that the courts won’t get around to ruling on it till after the election, but given the slapdash nature of the bill it’s harder to think that Mr Thorpe is really thinking that strategically.

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