Out-of-state students faced difficulties when registering to vote
Early voting Pima County members wait in line to cast their vote in at the Associated Students of the University of Arizona office on Nov. 4, 2016.
Many students have registered to vote in Arizona in the past few weeks of school, but with a catch.
Out-of-state students who would like to vote face obstacles such as accidentally becoming ineligible to vote in their home state by registering in Arizona, missing their deadline to register or being unaware of the necessary steps that out-of-state voters must take to register.
Out-of-state voter registration
When you register to vote, you sign the voter declaration, which states above the signature line, “By signing below, I swear or affirm that the above information is true, that I am a RESIDENT of Arizona … ”
To vote in any state, first you must qualify as a resident. According to the Arizona state legislature website, "resident" means “an individual who has actual physical presence in this state … with an intent to remain ... An individual has only one residence for purposes of this title."
So what does this mean for out-of-state students who registered to vote in Arizona?
Out-of-state students are no longer able to vote in elections in their home state, and they could also jeopardize specific scholarships tied to being a resident in their home state, according to Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez.
Rodriguez emphasized that, “Even if they want to participate in civic engagement and the voting process, they have to understand what they are signing up for.”
Rodriguez said that problems start with "out-of-state students using their Arizona mailing address but not their home address in their home state.”
She said that when the Pima County Recorder’s office notices the discrepancies, it has to go through a special procedure with the forms that involves Arizona's Secretary of State — as well as a student's home state secretary of state.
“Once a week now, we mail all these forms … and I have to send it to that secretary state … then that secretary state has to download it to whatever county they are at, but I don’t know," Rodriguez explained.
She also noted that each state has its own unique end date for registration.
"The registration cutoff for each state is different. And I said so these students may think they are registering because they are, but they’re going to miss the deadline … by the time they get them it may be too late” Rodriguez said.
Out-of-state student experiences
Patrick Arguello, a environmental studies senior from Idaho, said a group of students came into one of his classes and started handing out voter registration forms.
“I was like ‘I’m a resident of Idaho.’ And [they were] like, ‘don’t worry. Even if you’re a resident of another state, if you’ve lived in Arizona for 30 days,’ which obviously I have, ‘you can vote in Arizona,’” said Arguello. “I took that as like, ‘Alright, I guess I get both.’”
Arguello realized that he didn’t mean to become ineligible to vote in his home state and said, “I know more about the politics of Idaho than I do about Arizona.”
Other people didn't want to register in Arizona, like junior Sarah Salmon, a communications major from California.
“I wanted to keep my vote in California because I plan on moving back to California, so I wanted to keep my vote somewhere where it would impact me in the long run,” Salmon said.
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Salmon voted in her freshmen year after her mom sent her a California mail-in voting ballot, but she found it difficult and confusing to mail in her ballot as a freshman.
“This upcoming election, I missed the primaries just because … I missed the cutoff, like I just didn’t realize when everything was happening,” said Salmon, who was disappointed because she cares a lot about politics.
Salmon suggested that out-of-state voting could be made easier if the information was publicized better or if out-of-state voters were still allowed to go to a voter booth and register.
Voter registration groups
Xoe Watchman, a student organizer for NextGen on the University of Arizona campus said “when we register people, we let them know, like, ‘You are registering here. That means you won’t be able to vote in your home election,’ and if they’re like ‘I would rather keep my vote there,' then we are like, ‘Okay, great.'”
Ariane Mohr-Felsen, a volunteer for NextGen Rising said, “It’s really important, and Arizona is going to be one of the closest races in the country, and so my personal opinion is that your vote might be more valuable here than somewhere else, depending on how close races are there.”
“We don’t want to disenfranchise people, and we don’t want to sign people up for something they don’t want to do,” Mohr-Felsen said.
How to vote if you are an out-of-state student
If a student hails from out-of-state and currently resides in Arizona, and they want to be able to vote in their home state, they can visit their state or territorial election office website and look for “absentee voting” or “voting by mail” to receive a mail-in ballot.
Some states require a valid excuse to vote absentee, and a student can explain that they are studying in another state but intend to come back to their home state after they graduate.
Whether you are in-state or out-of-state, if you are over the age of 18, voting is a way to participate in the broader community as well as represent the younger generation of voters. Just make sure to read the fine print and take the necessary steps to become registered.
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