If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Published 1:05 am Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Do you remember the first time you voted? Where were you the first time you exercised your right to participate in our great American democracy?
Likely, you were 18. Perhaps you were in college, learning how to make your own way in the world without the safety net of family and home.
For most of us, voting for the first time was another rite of passage on the inevitable path to adulthood — like your first solo drive after getting your license or graduation night, when your high school diploma was handed over. Those are proud moments and memories, to be sure.
The experience could change for young voters and their parents as soon as Jan. 1, 2014, if recently proposed legislation is passed.
Last week, state Sen. Bill Cook and four others proposed Senate Bill 667.
In summary, it would work something like this: Let’s say you are a college student and you live away from home and register to vote at that address (your dorm, your apartment), your parents will no longer be able to claim you as a dependent for state tax purposes. You must register and vote at your parents’ home (no matter how far away that is from your college or university) in order for your parents, who are likely still supporting you, to continue to claim you as a dependent.
If you and your parents decide the convenience of exercising your right to vote in the same town in which you go to school is worth more than any state tax deduction, car-owning voter-students will have 60 days to tie up some loose ends. Now that you’re not a dependent, you’re going to have to register your car in the appropriate jurisdiction (where you go to school and vote) and pay property taxes accordingly.
Of course, since this bill deals with state taxes only, out-of-state students and their parents will not be touched by the legislation.
The question is why? What are the reasons for making the bill a law? Is it designed to fatten state coffers by preventing parents from claiming dependents? Or is it designed to prevent college students from voting?
Cook, who authored the bill, offered his reasoning.
“It’s important for our electoral system to work as good as possible,” he said Monday morning. “The situation now is that college students are getting a privilege that none of the rest of us have. They’ve got a choice of places to vote, but nobody else has. When they choose to vote at their schools, they skew the election results in an area where they don’t pay property taxes or actually live. They’re just here temporarily. I think we need to fix that.”
Legislators need to be careful with “fixes” that discourage young people from voting. It’s likely this bill would do just that if it becomes law.