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Idaho’s Ysursa dumps voter warning from Web site

Resource type: News

The Associated Press State & Local Wire |

by JOHN MILLER Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has changed a Web site warning that students could face criminal penalties if they abuse voter registration residency requirements after concerns were raised that the wording could scare off young voters. Previously, a page on Ysursa’s Web site entitled “Students and Voting Residency” warned “Registering to vote is a serious matter which, if abused, can subject you to criminal penalties.” The page now reads “Registering to vote is a serious matter which should only be done after proper reflection.” The issue emerged after The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported Sunday on a national study by New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice that concluded Idaho college students face some of the nation’s toughest voter-registration restrictions. It said the warning could be intimidating and also criticized a Web site passage telling Idaho students they must have plans to stay here permanently in order to register. “The last thing we want to do is discourage students from voting,” Tim Hurst, deputy secretary of state, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “We want them to vote and they need to vote at the proper place, whether that’s in Idaho, or where their parents live.” People in Idaho can vote if they are 18 years old and if they’ve lived in the state and county for at least 30 days prior to the election date, which this year is Nov. 4. For voting purposes, “residence” means the principal or primary home, according to the state. On Wednesday, the Idaho Democratic Party and the Boise State University College Democrats organized a news conference to highlight concerns raised by the Brennan Center for Justice’s study. Both groups applauded Ysursa’s changes. “Students know that voting is important,” Hilary Ward, Boise State University College Democrats president, said in a statement. “It’s a responsibility we take seriously.” State Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Hansen said criminal penalties should be levied against those who vote more than once in the same election, but directing such warnings at students “created a real risk that students will be discouraged from registering and voting because they are not yet in a position to decide where they will live and work after they complete their studies.” Hurst said the warning was meant only to remind college students and others that they should register and vote in the place where they intend to remain permanently, or for an indefinite length of time. “It’s not just for students, it’s for anybody,” Hurst said. Still, students seeking to register to vote may have special circumstances that merit extra consideration, he added. For instance, a University of Idaho student from Alaska registered to vote in Moscow several years ago, only to lose a Permanent Fund Dividend payment from oil and natural gas royalties for Alaska residents. This year, that payment topped $3,200. And in 2007, Madison County election officials in eastern Idaho received a frantic phone call from a parent fearful her two children risked losing resident status at the University of Utah School of Medicine, which they planned to attend, because they’d registered to vote in Rexburg. Nonresidents often pay more for tuition. “The students sometimes struggle with that,” Hurst said, of the voter guide. “This is to provide some guidance.”

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