Elkhart County official traveled to Indianapolis to testify on election law

Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson testified in favor of a state law proposal meant to keep non-resident college students in Indiana from voting here.
Posted on Feb. 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson had testified in favor of a proposal that would have hampered the ability of college students to vote in Indiana if they come here from outside the state.

That element of the multi-pronged measure, House Bill 1311, has been removed, though. Instead, the updated version calls for a summer study committee to look into the standards for determining residency in the state for purposes of voting.

Hudson traveled to Indianapolis last week to sound off on H.B. 1311, which received a favorable recommendation Thursday Feb. 14, in revised form, from the House Committee on Elections and Apportionment. As originally written, it stated that those who pay non-resident tuition rates at colleges here do not gain residency in a precinct, necessary to vote. Non-resident rates, higher than in-state tuition, are reserved for those coming from outside Indiana to attend public colleges and universities here.

In its original state, the measure had prompted criticism from some, like Lee Rowland, a legal expert at the New York University School of Law consulted by the Indianapolis Star. The critics had deemed the restriction on non-resident college students unconstitutional.

Hudson, though, noted Wednesday that existing Indiana law already limits the voting rights of those coming here from outside the state to attend college. Indiana Code 3-5-5-7 states that those moving to Indiana for “educational purposes” do not gain residency in a voting precinct “without the intent of making a permanent home in the precinct.”

As she saw it, H.B. 1311, in its original form, was merely an “educational tool” and a complement to I.C. 3-5-5-7.

When college students come here from outside Indiana, still registered to vote in their home state, “there’s a lot of confusion,” said Hudson. As county clerk, Hudson oversees elections in Elkhart County.

Moreover, Hudson had noted that college students could potentially still vote, at least per the dictates of I.C. 3-5-5-7, if they were able to make a legitimate claim to residency.

As revised, H.B. 1311, which still faces the scrutiny of the full Indiana House, calls for the study into residency standards and crafting of any recommendations to change them. H.B. 1311 also contains numerous provisions related to use of electronic poll lists, among other things.

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