Oct 2, 2016 (RALEIGH) — It may be a joke, but here’s an interesting question somebody named Nicole C sent us today through our website:
From: Nicole C.
I am not a NC voter but I thought you might be able to help me with a question–you were the only place that seemed set up to answer it. I have a question about the legality of voting as I will describe bellow:
I am a student and live part of the year in the state in which I go to school and part of the year with my parents in my home state. I am registered to vote in both states. I am an honest person, and firmly believe in the democratic process, and would never want to defraud the process. I also don’t want to do anything illegal. The situation is this:
In my home state, there is a candidate running to represent that state in the house for whom I would like to vote. This candidate is therefore not running for a federal election, but only a state election. I want to vote for the president however, in my school’s state because it is more competitive and I think my vote will matter more there.
I did not even think about legal questions because I assumed that since I was not voting for the same person/office twice (for a house candidate in one state, for president in the other) there was no issue. Talking to my parents recently who had read the stories, among others of a recent case you had brought, they were worried and wanted me to check up on the legality of it.
I have sent in my absentee ballot for my home state already and on the instruction slip I made a note telling them explicitly that I had deliberately voted only for the house candidate and not for the presidential candidate on this ballot. I certainly do want to vote in the presidential election however.
So, my question is, would there be any legal problem with me splitting my vote up like this? Again I am absolutely NOT voting for the same person/office twice.
Thank you so much for any help you can give me,
Not exactly as affirming as Miss Manners, here was my email reply:
I’m going to give you an answer you probably won’t like. I sincerely hope you are joking.
First, you should note up front that I’m not an attorney and you really should consult one before you vote twice in the same federal election. It’s against both state and federal law. Many states require prosecutors to show intent for the person who voted illegally, so you might get away with your crime…but going through a legal defense effort could still traumatize you. I wouldn’t try it if I were you.
Second, there is no way election agencies have the resources to match ballots to ensure that college students (who illegally vote in two jurisdictions during the same election) didn’t vote for a federal race in one of them. Regardless of your intent, if you get a resolute prosecutor, you could wind up sweating through a grand jury proceeding to prove your innocence.
Third, on a personal level, I absolutely loathe the fact that you get to choose your domicile on election day when every other law-abiding adult voter in America does not have that special right. You are given this super right only because you are a college student. Even military members do not get to vote in two jurisdictions in the same election and many of them have died to protect your right to vote. I hope you will reconsider your devious plan.
That said, your idea to “vote where it counts” is a common theme we’ve heard in vote fraud circles, but voting at the same time in two different jurisdictions is a new one. Think about that for a moment. While I hate that aspect of the law, it does allow you to pick your jurisdiction, based on some sort of “intent” to live there in the future.
Everybody else in American society has a domicile based on their long-term intent to live at that address, but some activist Federal judge gave college students the right to vote from something called a “temporary domicile,” meaning you get a different set of rights than the rest of us. It blows my mind that you even want to abuse those rights!!
Seriously, I believe there are two legal options for you.
Choice 1 — Follow the intent of the law and vote from your parents’ address. If your friend back home really needs your vote, then it’s okay to cast your full ballot there. After all, that really is your true domicile until you graduate and get a job.
Choice 2 — Abuse your super rights at school. If you’d rather tamper with the outcome of the election in a state you do not intend to reside in long-term, then the law (currently) allows you that 14th Amendment violation.
Finally, under NO circumstances does the law allow you to split your ballot between both states. You claim you wrote a note, but I doubt that would stand up in court.
In closing, I sincerely hope you are joking about this entire scenario.My heartfelt advice is to NOT abuse your super rights. Search your heart on this. Unless you really do plan to remain in your college town after graduation, you have a moral obligation to vote from your parents’ address. You really ought to be content with only having rights “equal” to the rest of the electorate and not superior.
And by the way, thank you for laying out the perfect reason that federal law should not allow college students (who are still being claimed on taxes filed by their parents) to vote from their college address!