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Playing politics with votes


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Indiana has a brain drain problem according to an extensive study released in November 2011 by the Kelley School of Business. Less than half of those who graduated from a public university in Indiana still remain in the state after five years.

In other words, the majority of college graduates are gone in five years or less, taking their valuable human capital with them.

Given the findings in this dismal report, it seems odd that legislators at the Indiana Statehouse would be taking steps to further disenfranchise college students in Indiana — but that’s exactly what they are doing.

House Bill 1311 is an election bill that was recently introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives by Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville, that would bar out-of-state students from voting in Indiana elections.

The official language of the bill provides “that a person does not gain residency in a precinct into which the person moves for educational purposes if the person pays a nonresident tuition rate.”

So if you pay out-of-state tuition, you cannot gain residency, and therefore cannot vote in state and local elections.
 
This bill could affect close to 12,000 students at IU, and tens of thousands more at campuses across the state. At both IU and Purdue University 30 percent of students are out-of-state.

There is no logical explanation for why Mayfield and some of her colleagues support this change. College students spend at least eight months out of the year in school, and some spend even more time in the state taking summer classes than in their state of residency.

For many out-of-state students, their college town is their home for at least four years.
While there may not be a logical explanation for Mayfield to propose this legislation, there is probably a political one.

Polls consistently showed that college students overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama against his Republican challenger in this past election.

In Indiana, only nine out of 92 counties went Democratic but five of those nine were home to major colleges or universities.
Furthermore, Mayfield herself represents a district that includes parts of Bloomington, home to many college students.

The only motivating factor for this type of legislation seems to be partisan,
political gain.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy to deny students the right to engage in their local and state politics, because many are leaving the state after graduation.

Of course, if you do not allow students to become politically engaged in the workings of the city and state in which they live, there is no reason for them to become civically invested in Indiana and stick around after graduation.

The only thing this legislation does is disenfranchise students who deserve to have a voice in their community and increase the already worrying trend of brain drain in Indiana.

What may provide political gains for a few now will ultimately hurt the long-term economic development of Indiana.

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