Paying out-of-state tuition could cost students something more under legislation that will be debated today: their vote. Under House Bill 1311, students who pay out-of-state tuition would not be able to vote in Indiana. Rep. Peggy Mayfield, the Martinsville Republican who filed the bill, said she’s trying to resolve who is an Indiana resident. “We’re having people who are not necessarily residents voting in our elections,” she said. But legal experts, as well as lawmakers in both parties whose districts include some of Indiana’s public universities, say there’s a big problem with the bill before the House Elections and Apportionment Committee: It’s unconstitutional. “I hope that’s a quick hearing,” said Lee Rowland, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which monitors voting rights issues. “Because, frankly, conditioning voting rights on a 12-month residency is so clearly unconstitutional that it would be an utter waste of the legislature’s time to consider such a bill.”
Mayfield and Rep. Milo Smith, the Columbus Republican who is chairman of the elections committee, said the students can still vote “where they live.” That, they said, is their previous out-of-state address. Mayfield said lawmakers may have to work on the bill — including the fact that it treats public university students differently from those at private colleges, which don’t distinguish between in-state and out-of-state students on tuition.
Mayfield argued that state law already bars students from voting on campus. Indiana law states that a person “does not gain residency in a precinct into which the person moves for temporary employment, educational purposes or other purposes without the intent of making a permanent home in the precinct.” But Rowland said that statute does not mean the state can bar students from voting for the minimum one year it takes to persuade a university they are eligible for in-state tuition.