Posted 12 p.m. Oct. 17, 2013

Let me explain:

Lisa Trimple, LCCC Foundation director of alumni affairs and event planning, explains the registering to vote process.

Photo by Kasey M. Orr

Campaign supports student registration

By Kasey M. Orr

The Laramie County Community College Building Forward campaign and all of its volunteers have been working during the summer and into the fall preparing for the Nov. 5 special election on a countywide bond issue, including the launch of a campaign on campus to rally student support in early October.

Lisa Murphy, associate vice president of institutional advancement for the LCCC Foundation, attended meetings across campus the last week of September laying out the plans of the Building Forward campaign for the final weeks leading to election day.

Overseen by the LCCC Foundation, these plans included a voter registration and information campaign on campus, beginning with a focus on the students living in the residence halls Oct. 2. Murphy pointed out that up to 60 percent of students at LCCC, including many in the Residence Hall, are already residents of Laramie County and, therefore, eligible to vote on the issue. This was followed the next day by a visit from the county clerk’s office in the College Community Center, in order to answer questions about, as well as facilitate voter registration. This would be important for students who were not residents of the county, as registration would change their electoral residency.

Murphy said the out-of-county and out-of-state students would be encouraged to register as voters in the county and would be told they can easily re-register in their own hometowns, counties and states next year, after this election is over.

“I’m sorry, but that is wrong,” said Debbie Valdez-Ortiz, manager of elections at the Laramie County Clerk’s office. According to Valdez-Ortiz, this would ask many out-of-county and out-of-state students to errantly register as residents of Laramie County.

In the opinion of Valdez-Ortiz, through these actions the Building Forward campaign would be actively encouraging students to tiptoe on the edge of voting law abuse and to put themselves in ethical, if not legal, jeopardy.

In a special election such as for the Building Forward bond issue, the only eligible voters are residents of Laramie County because these are the only Wyoming residents who will pay the proposed property tax. In the state of Wyoming, registration requires a person of proper age and U.S. citizenship to fill out a form in which he signs an oath declaring his intent to be a resident in Laramie County, Wyoming.

This oath reads, in part: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am a citizen of the United States; that I am a bona fide resident of the state of Wyoming and this county; that I will be at least eighteen (18) years of age on or before the next election; that I am not now registered in another county or stateā€¦”

The state and federal laws do not preclude students from voting simply because they are away from home, which is information organizations such as ensure students are aware of on its site.

Absentee ballots are available for students away from home, or they can claim residency where they are located. This LCCC special election is not a vote for U.S president or a U.S Senate seat although it will enforce a tax on people in the county, and, thus, Valdez-Ortiz and LCCC President Dr. Joe Schaffer agreed, it becomes a moral question for each out-of-county student to decide on his own.

The Wyoming election codes, however, have something to say about gaining residency simply by being a student:

Wyoming State Statute 22-1-102

(B) A person shall not gain or lose residence merely by reason of his presence or absence while:

II: A student in an institution of learning

Signing the oath mentioned in the voter registration form declares the student as a resident of the county and state, circumventing this statute.

According to information from Valdez-Ortiz, if a student were to register in Laramie County and then, next year, re-register in another Wyoming county, or another state entirely as suggested by the Building Forward campaign, it is evident such a student did not have intentions of making Laramie County his home, falsifying the legal oath made by signing the voter registration form.

“That’s playing games to vote,” Valdez-Ortiz said. “I’m sure that the purpose is to get the students to vote for the issue, but those (out-of-county) people are not taxpayers. They are temporarily here, and if they have enough power to change the outcome of the election, they could be putting a tax burden on other people.”

Additionally, Valdez-Ortiz warned if any student misunderstood his ability to re-register in his hometown and did so in order to vote for an issue during this same year, he would actually have committed voter fraud.

Schaffer agreed that, as this is an issue left up to the conscience of each student-voter, it would be pertinent to ask questions such as: Where do I want to vote for the next U.S. president or representative? Where will I live after I complete my time at LCCC?” “Where will I spend my winter or summer vacation?

If the answer to any one of these questions is not Laramie County, then students may be perpetrating an ethical fraud by signing an oath to the contrary by registering as a resident.

Each out-of-county student must weigh his own conscience carefully before making a decision. According to Schaffer, educating young students on voting and registration and enabling them to be a part of this process are some of the duties of an academic institution like LCCC. He agreed this is a situation all voters find themselves in to one degree or another: the idea that a vote in an election can ask strangers to pay for something the voter feels he or she might need.