North Dakota University System Warns Students About Where They Declare Residency for Voting

The University of North Dakota campus is shown in this file photo. Eric Hylden/Forum News Service

The North Dakota University System has issued a student guide for voting in the 2016 election cycle.

You can read the whole thing here, but in this excerpt the NDUS distributes a bit of advice that some are finding controversial. Note the highlighted sentence:

residency
“This is beyond inappropriate,” Bismarck attorney Tom Dickson said of the statement. Dickson represented a group of Native American plaintiffs in a lawsuit which saw North Dakota reinstate the voter affidavits mentioned above after the Legislature removed them during the 2015 session.

Dickson, as it happens, is also defending left-wing activist Amy Goodman against charges of trespassing related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

Before the 2015 law voters who do not have a valid ID proving their residency could sign an affidavit declaring it. The problem was that these affidavits didn’t get verified until well after the election results had been announced, if ever. In a state where newly-elected lawmakers go to work in early January, just weeks after winning in November, that’s a problem.

So lawmakers removed the affidavit option. Only a federal judge told the state, ruling in the lawsuit filed by Dickson, that it had to be re-instated.

I’m not sure what’s so “inappropriate” here.

If you’re a student who has a scholarship the qualifications of which are dependent on residency, the university system is simply warning that signing an affidavit changing where you say you’re a resident may put that at risk.

Seems like common sense, though some are claiming this amounts to the university system “threatening” students.

It reads more like a warning to me, and a good one. If you’re going to declare your residency in one district for the purposes of voting, you probably should lose your scholarship if a requirement for it is residency somewhere else.

UPDATE: Jake Blum, Vice Chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party in District 42 and a candidate for the state House there, told me he was surprised to see the warning.

“In my time at UND, which dates back to another election year in 2012, I fail to recall any previous notification or threat regarding this issue prior to the Voter ID law’s enactment,” he said. “NDUS should be doing all it can to promote student civic engagement, not blatantly discouraging it. ”

Blum’s district has a large student presence from the University of North Dakota.

Again, I’m not sure how this discourages anything. It seems like students ought to be aware that they can only legally be a resident in one place, and that if they change their residency it could have ramifications for other residency-contingent things like scholarships.

What this state really needs – very, very badly – is voter registration.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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