Subverting the voting rights of Americans has long been a pet project of the Republican Party.
The GOP has employeed racist and unconstitutional methods to suppress votes, and now Republicans in Arizona have found a new group to disenfranchise: college students.
Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Arizona), chairman of the Arizona House Government and Higher Education Committee, is seeking to prohibit college students in the Flagstaff district from voting if the university they attend is not in their home area. His reasoning? They "dilute" the votes of the locals.
"These students do not influence the elections within their own communities, where their families and neighbors live, but instead they dilute the votes of the local full-time residents within the college communities," the self-identified Tea Party member said in a statement, reported Mint Press News.
So far, Thorpe envisions a system in which the secretary of state mails early ballots to student's permanent home addresses. He wants policies that ensure that only full-time students living in off-campus housing can participate in the local elections, with proper identification, of course.
While he has yet to cement any of the logistics of his plans, Thorpe said that "stakeholders" will aid him in developing legislation and a course of action, whoever and whatever that means.
Needless to say, the backlash has been swift, and opponents have been quick to label the idea exactly what it is: unconstitutional.
“Excluding college students from participating in the election process at their place of residence is not only undemocratic but also unconstitutional,” said Eva Putzova, city councilwoman in Flagstaff, Arizona. "This is another example of a voter suppression tactic designed to benefit the narrow economic and political interests represented by Rep. Thorpe.”
College campuses are generally recognized as liberal bastions, and so it makes them a prime target for those in the GOP who see no problem in playing dirty. Student activist groups can be a rallying point for communities and inspire movements that often counter the conservative agenda.
"When you look at these groups individually, they have a lot of power on campus, because they’re able to mobilize a lot of students,” Angela Romero Ramirez, a sophomore at Northern Arizona University and member of Associated Students For Women's Issues, explained.
Ramirez told Mint Press News that she believes college students should be able to vote where they attend school because “a lot of propositions affect students.” She also noted that the congressman had not indicated that he plans to amend the voting procedures of seasonal residents, colloquially known as "snowbirds," living in Flagstaff only part-time.
If Republicans could make the voices of those like Ramirez less powerful it would be a boon to their party, and in this way Thorpe's plot is transparent.