Subverting the voting rights of Americans has long been a pet project of the Republican Party.
Despite the racist and unconstitutional methods the GOP has employed, they haven't trying to suppress votes. 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 in the places they attend school if that school is out of 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.
While Thorpe has yet to cement any of the logistics of his plans, he said that he will develop them with the help of "stakeholders," whoever and whatever that means.
So far, he envisions a system in which the secretary of state mails early ballots to a student's permanent home address. He wants policies ensuring that only full-time students living in off-campus housing could participate in the local elections, with proper identification, of course.
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 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 said she believes college students should absolutely be able to vote where they live and attend school because “a lot of propositions affect students.”
If Republicans could make the voices of those like Ramirez a lot less powerful, it would be a boon to their party. Thorpe's plot is painfully transparent too; Ramirez noted that the congressman had not indicated that he plans to clarify the voting procedures of seasonal, part-time residents, colloquially known as "snowbirds," living in Flagstaff.
Thorpe is about suppressing the liberal and progressive voice, not empowering a local community to engage in democracy.