Students live here, work here, call police here, get parking tickets here and shop here. But should students be allowed to vote here?
At the Sept. 14 Monroe County Election Board meeting, Bloomington resident Cindy McCullough expressed the view that students should not be allowed to register to vote in Monroe County.
Her comments inflamed the students present.
A letter to the Monroe County Election Board by Les Compton, the chairman of the Monroe County Republican Party, expressed the effect of the student vote in the 2008
“In the general election of 2008, satellite voting accounted for 4,486 votes,” the letter said. “Over 50 percent of those votes were cast on campus. ...I believe that it is safe to assume that the Democrats garnered a distinct advantage from it.”
John Spears, Indiana director of Organizing for America, expressed a different view about the impact of student voting on local elections.
“It’s pretty simple,” Spears said. “If more students register to vote and participate in the November elections, the future will be shaped by young people, and progress can be made on the issues that matter to students.”
And with the Oct. 4 deadline to register to vote fast approaching, students need to act fast if they want their voices heard.
“We’ve taken huge strides forward on issues that affect young people because young people made their voices heard in the 2008 election,” Spears said. “If students want to continue that progress, they’ve got to turn out again in 2010.”
Monroe County is not the only area where there has been controversy about student voting.
In January 2007, a state representative from Maine introduced a bill that would have made college students unable to vote in their college town if they lived in university-owned housing while attending school.
Though the bill did not pass, proponents argued that students live in their college towns for only a few years and should not have the power to shape local policies.
“The entire reason Bloomington is the Bloomington we know and love today is because of IU,” said Rick Dietz, chairman of the Monroe County Democrats. “Students contribute greatly to our community and are a huge factor in our local economy.”
Sophomore Erik Peterson said students have the right and responsibility to vote, just like any other citizen, in the county where they reside.
Those who wish to vote must reside at a local address, but do not need to state how long they have lived in the community.
Junior Sam Greene said students should not be treated differently in the voting process simply because Monroe County is not their permanent residence.
“We spend the majority of the year here,” she said.
Dietz said the Monroe County Democrats are working to register everyone they can to vote before the Oct. 4 deadline.
“We think voting should be easy, quick and accessible for everyone in our community. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, factory worker, fireman, accountant, waitress, etc,” Dietz said.
Opportunities to register can be found around campus at the Indiana Memorial Union, outside Ballantine Hall and through the county voting office in the Curry Building on Seventh Street.
“It is important that we as a collective group are represented properly,” Greene said.
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