Politically Savvy: Iowa Student Voting Rights

Do you know about your voting rights? Student voting rights are becoming an increasingly hot topic with the upcoming primaries and Iowa caucuses. Some campaigns have been trying to discourage young people from voting by telling them that if you are a college student in Iowa originally from out of state, you should register to vote in your hometown and not Iowa. This, however, is incorrect. Check out the following statement from Rock the Vote Executive Director Heather Smith:

"Over the past week, several campaigns, candidates and political reporters have stated that college students who moved to Iowa to attend school should not vote in the Iowa caucuses.

"These statements are a frustrating and disappointing attempt to suppress the student vote, and are also legally incorrect. According to the Iowa Secretary of State, all Iowa students have the right to vote in the town where they attend college in Iowa. From the Secretary's website:

'If you are from another state (i.e. Illinois) and are attending college in Iowa (i.e. Iowa State University), you may register to vote in:

– your Iowa college town or

– your home state (hometown) and vote absentee – subject to the laws of your home state.'

"To tell students that they can only vote in the town that they came from, rather than in the town where they live, is a clear effort to disenfranchise student voters. Attempts on the part of campaigns to deter eligible voters from voting should be forcefully and immediately denounced.

"These statements are even more disturbing given the unprecedented levels of engagement we're seeing from today's young voters – both in participating in the 2008 campaigns, organizing their peers to register and vote in the caucuses and primaries, and in their recent historic turnout levels in the 2004 and 2006 elections. Young adults' growing political participation should be encouraged, not deterred.

"Rock the Vote urges every campaign and candidate to issue a statement that validates students' right to vote in Iowa and lauds young Americans for their increased engagement in the political process. We also encourage all media outlets to make clear in their reporting leading up to January 3rd that college students have rights equal to any Iowa resident to vote in the Iowa caucuses.

"Students go to a college or university for 4 or 5 years and many stay on in those communities afterwards. They pay sales tax, many work full or part-time jobs and pay income tax, and they are subject to the laws of the community in which they live – they have every right to vote in that community, legally and morally.

"It is important to note that this is an issue larger than the Iowa caucuses. Legally, students have the right to vote where they go to school in virtually every state across the country. Despite this, we see challenges to student voters year after year. As we have in the past, Rock the Vote will make sure all students know their rights in 2008, and will work to ensure all eligible voters are allowed to register and vote in the 2008 elections.

"Rock the Vote's Iowa program Rock the Caucus aims to mobilize high school and college students to caucus on January 3rd. As always, Rock the Vote will aggressively ensure young people know that if they live in Iowa, they can vote in Iowa, and let them know where candidates stand on important issues like student voting rights. "

So whether you live and go to school in Iowa or wherever, make sure to look up your state's voter registration laws and get registered to vote before it's too late. You can even get registered to vote through Rock the Vote's website here.

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