Arizona lawmaker would keep some students from voting

Arizona lawmaker would keep some students from voting

When Rep. Bob Thorpe ran for re-election in November, the areas in and around the Northern Arizona University campus were among the areas that provided his lowest vote tallies.

Thorpe won anyway, with strong showings in the largely Republican Gila and Navajo county portion of his legislative district.

Now the Flagstaff lawmaker wants to keep students from voting at all unless they happen to already have been living there with their families before they started school.

HB 2260 would make it illegal to use a dormitory address “or other temporary college or university address” like an apartment to register to vote. Instead, Arizona law would presume these to be “a temporary address with intent to return to some other permanent address.”

Thorpe’s legislation also comes just months after voters in Flagstaff approved an initiative to eventually move that city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

That measure 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 in two precincts that include parts of the campus, enough to overturn the vote in some residential precincts where it failed.

What Thorpe proposes would have statewide effect on candidate, bond and initiative elections in communities with public and private colleges with students in residence on or near the campus.

Separately, Thorpe has crafted HB 2124 to not only bar local communities from ever enacting their own “living wage” laws higher than the state minimum, but also retroactively repeal what Flagstaff voters approved in November.

And he proposes in HB 2255 to make it illegal for individuals and businesses who do not reside in Arizona to contribute money in support or opposition to ballot measures.

Thorpe declined to speak about any of his proposals.

But Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, the assistant minority leader, said the measure on student voting is bad public policy.

“The problem we’re having with young voters now is they’re not voting often enough,” said Farley, whose district includes areas in and around the University of Arizona. “If they’re committed to their college community, committed enough to want to re-register to vote there, then we ought to encourage that.”

What it also is, according to Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen, is illegal.

“You can’t single out a group of people,” she said. Hansen cited a 1979 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld a lower court ruling voiding practices by Waller County, Texas, that involved special treatment for college students when they sought to register to vote.

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan has her own problems with what Thorpe wants to do.

“I’m not in favor of that just as somebody who spent the last year on all of the college campuses personally registering people to vote,” she said. “That would fly in the face of everything we’ve tried to do in the past year.”

In fact, Reagan said she is working with Arizona State University on a pilot program to let students register to vote when they register for class.

And Reagan said HB 2260 makes the presumption that students are somehow linked to where their parents live.

“They’re not using their home address anymore,” Reagan said. “They’re using their student address.”

Thorpe is doing more than trying to change rules for who can vote. He wants to amend a pair of statewide initiatives voters already have approved, one in 2006 and one just last year, that set a statewide minimum wage.

HB 2124 would say that only a statewide minimum wage is permitted. And if approved, it would be retroactive to Oct. 31, meaning it would effectively nullify the Flagstaff vote.

It also has language allowing employers statewide to pay a wage below the state minimum to employees who are in training. Thorpe’s measure does not say how little that can be.

Thorpe also wants to limit who can contribute to ballot measures, like that just-approved minimum wage hike.

Existing law allows any individual or corporation to give money to try to get an initiative approved or rejected. The only requirement is that the campaign committees that get the cash detail from who it comes.

HB 2255 would make it illegal for anyone from outside Arizona to contribute funds for or against ballot measures. But it would leave the door open for out-of-state residents to give to political candidates.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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