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Loose Lips interestingly touched a sensitive button in writing about the hot issue of student voting in Georgetown/Burleith (11/8). Unfortunately, LL missed the basic point by a mile, while gleefully sticking it to Georgetown activist Westy Byrd.
For those of us who live permanently and pay taxes in the university-ridden neighborhood of Burleith, the recent principled challenging of the D.C. legal-resident credentials of numerous students herded to the polls is both perfectly aimed and stated.
A—perhaps the—basic issue in the current uninformed brouhaha is whether large universities and others can rightfully: 1.) attract and then (by refusing them on-campus housing) push thousands of out-of-state students into nearby residential tax-base neighborhoods, 2.) prime and then vote the essentially transient students in massive numbers, and thereby 3.) artificially deny the taxpaying permanent residents in the affected areas their normal say in the management of their civic affairs. Certainly neither the normal voting nor the ANC system was set up with thousands of situational legal-residents-for-a-day in mind.
Voting is a positive indicator that a person claims and intends to be a legal resident of the
place where he/she votes. All,
not just some, legal residents must: 1.) pay income and other area taxes, 2.) register and license their vehicles within a mandated time, and 3.) duly qualify for
and get driver’s permits, at the very least.
If a transient would-be voter has not seen to these most basic requirements, he/she is essentially a visitor in the District and a resident of a state of origin. And should vote there. The challengers of GU students and others cite ample legal precedents to justify this position, and have filed to test the matter in the courts. The issue is of course not whether students and other basically transient individuals should exercise their undisputed right to vote, but where they should rightfully cast their ballots. If the student-voter recruiters had their way, temporary student residents in the District could vote either in their states of origin or in D.C. Conversely, however, the permanent residents in student-swamped areas would have no effective vote at all and no electoral recourse in matters of town-gown interest.
Based on the massive numbers of out-of-state students on campuses and in the communities around, say, George Washington, Georgetown, and Howard Universities, it is obvious that aggressive, however shallow, student-voter recruitment drives can, if allowed to, produce overwhelming majorities of basically transient, uninvolved voters. (GU alone has 2,600 off-campus students.) If the recent election in Georgetown/Burleith is an indicator, these students can readily be primed, herded (bused) to the polls, voted zombie-style, and then effectively forgotten—until another civic affair of university interest comes up.
It is probably better to define this basic issue sooner rather than later in both the courts
and the city. And superficial reportage, unconsidered breast-beating in general, and indiscreet bombast from an election board official are not ways to help ensure due consideration for the civic rights of taxpaying permanent D.C. residents to representation and orderly