PHOENIX – Republican state Rep. Bob Thorpe is drafting a bill this summer that would ban out-of-state college students from voting in Arizona elections, sparking criticism from other public officials.
“The legislation to really suppress voters, especially young voters that attend universities, is wrong,” said Rep. Isela Blanc, a Democrat.
Thorpe’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Cronkite News. He told the Arizona Republic in June that college students “unfairly influence” elections.
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said barring college students from Arizona’s elections made no more sense than barring active-duty military personnel or winter visitors who live in the state for a few months.
“They are contributing to our economy by consuming, by renting, by paying for gas and buying clothes,” Fontes said. “They’re part of our community. And there’s absolutely no reason why we should exclude them.”
He called the move a “dangerous position.”
“The way I see universities is a place to learn, not just to learn about chemistry and stuff like that but to learn to be a good citizen,” Fontes said. “And if you’re preventing students from voting in their first elections … then what message are you sending? Are you just devaluing their participation in that civic engagement that we want to welcome more Americans into?”
Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, a Republican, also opposed the proposal.
“Our office has committed to making it easier for students to register to vote,” she wrote in a statement. She said her office will work to increase the number of student voters in 2018 through college outreach programs.
Maricopa County Recorder’s Office records show approximately 2,200 of the county’s 2.2 million registered voters are listed with dorm addresses.
Thorpe introduced a similar bill in January, House Bill 2260, that died. Blanc said public opposition built momentum on social media and through college students.