The North Shore Sun ran a profile of the Stony Brook College Democrats the other day, noting the potential impact a university with 16,000 students can have on the Brookhaven Town Supervisor special election on March 31st.
Buried beneath the fluff of the story however is this little nugget:
The practice of holding voter registration drives on campus, where most of the students registered to vote are not “permanent” residents of Brookhaven, is something that does not sit well with local Republicans.
“It’s been a problem for a long time,” said Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who until this month served as the chairman of the State Senate higher education committee.
That’s Ken LaValle of LaValle Stadium notoriety. He and State Senator Flanagan, who represents, among other areas, Stony Brook University in Albany, are arguing that Stony Brook students shouldn’t be given the right to vote.
Of course, they don’t say it in those terms. Instead, they take the much less controversial route by questioning the legitimacy of registrations done on campus. Students who are registered at home, they argue, shouldn’t get to register at school.
But they both know full well that when you register someplace new, any old registrations are voided, for the very reason that LaValle and Flanagan cite: voting twice would constitute voter fraud.
But that’s not stopping them from sounding the false alarm. Senator Flanagan believes that people can have only one permanent address and can therefore only register in one place. New York State law disagrees, though. You can register to vote anywhere in New York so long as you have resided at the address given for at least 30 days before the election. The law was passed for the benefit of college students, most of whom are at school during November elections. It makes no sense to force students away at college to either travel home to vote in the middle of the week (Tuesdays, don’t forget) or cast absentee ballots.
The reason that Flanagan and LaValle (and Jeff Garcia, the chair of the Brookhaven Republican Committee) are lobbying hard against voting at the SAC is that students tend to vote for the other guys. All it takes is a look at the 2008 elections, where Obama beat John McCain by a margin of 8-1 on campus. And in his concession speech, former Republican State Senator Caesar Trunzo blamed college students mobilizing for Democrat Brian Foley for his loss.
In the end, what Flanagan and LaValle are advocating for is just a subtle case of voter suppression. And while we certainly don’t support it, Republicans shaking in their boots are what we live for.