When we turn eighteen, as American citizens, we have earned the right to fill out a ballot and have a say in our government. Our democracy stands for the people and by the people, so all people have a say in what goes on in their respective towns. College students are the youngest age of people able to vote in America, with the average ranging from 18 to 22 years old. It is an exciting time for young adults. I remember the first time filling out a ballot and the sense of pride that came along with it. However, I believe that as only temporary residents of Northfield, St. Olaf and Carleton students should be limited in their voting rights if they do choose to vote here.
Many college students choose to vote absentee in their hometowns (which presents its own issues of respresentation) yet many also register to vote in Northfield. Voting in Minnesota in general is extremely easy, with same day registration available. This is wonderful for encouraging people to get to the polls to do their civic duty. No problems arise when thinking of presidential or congressional races, as those are on a much larger scale of representation and the policies implemented by those individuals do impact college students.
A case can even be made when voting for the mayor of Northfield. It is considered a “college town” after all, so one would hope the mayor of Northfield takes the interests of students into account when making decisions. However, when discussing the upcoming referendum vote in Northfield that concerns investment in the public schools, students should not be allowed to vote, as they do not pay taxes in the town of Northfield.
On the Northfield Public Schools website, it states that, “On November 7, 2017, Northfield Public Schools residents will be asked to vote on two important election questions.” These questions concern the overall infrastructure investments of the schools and the operating budget of individual students. There is a proposed plan for the new elementary school, and a proposed plan for the new high school. The total amount projected for the elementary school projects is $23.5 million, and the total amount projected for the high school projects is $78.5 million. The website goes on to explain, “The District recognizes that approval of these two referendum questions will raise taxes for residents.” Students are considered such “residents,” yet do not pay taxes in the town, so are not impacted in the same way that others will be.
In short, students will be able to vote in this referendum if they are registered to vote in Northfield, yet will not be impacted at all by the outcomes. We will not have our taxes raised (we don’t pay any here) and while investing in public schooling systems is wonderful, the good majority of us do not have children that use these schools on a daily basis. I believe the solution here is to allow students in Northfield (or any other college town, for that matter) to vote for specific candidates and policies that will affect them as students. Students should not be able to vote on policies concerning taxes and investments in public infrastructures.
I realize there is no easy solution to this problem, but one may be to simply consider what type of citizens college students should be, and how citizenship type may restrict the person’s right to vote. For instance, if college students were labeled as “temporary citizens” of whatever town they resided in for the four years of undergraduate studies, some of those voting priviliges may be limited as a temporary citizen. Permanent citizens could be those that plan to stay in an area longterm (over five years) who then would have all the voting privileges when considering referendums and taxes.
There is no good answer, and considering some of my solutions would involve an entire ratification of our Constiution. I am not saying voting needs to be heavily restricted, but I believe tax referendums especially need to be reconsidered. Leaving home for college is a relatively recent phenomenon, so our government must consider what it means for the individual towns impacted by it.