Can Out-of-State College Students Vote in Vermont? Not Necessarily.

November 2, 2018

by Rob Roper

Every year about this time people start asking how it is that college students who are not from here get to have disproportionate impacts on local elections. Are they really allowed to vote in our elections? Shouldn’t they be voting in their home towns in other states, or even in their home towns in Vermont? According to the law, it depends.

Vermont law defines a resident eligible to vote as:

…a natural person who is domiciled in the State as evidenced by an intent to maintain a principal dwelling place in the State indefinitely and to return there when temporarily absent, coupled with an act or acts consistent with that intent.

College students are natural persons, and they are considered legally domiciled in the State – they sleep here more than six months of the year — which could allow them to Vote in Vermont. But the students must also show evidence of “an intent to maintain a principal dwelling place in the State indefinitely,” which means that they must show in some demonstrable way that do not intend to leave Vermont after graduation. Vermont election officials do not enforce this aspect of the law.

If the student does not intend, and/or cannot provide evidence of that intent, to remain in Vermont “indefinitely,” he or she would fall under the category described in the law of being “temporarily absent” from their principal domicile, such as their parents’ home out-of-state. “Acts consistent with this intent” would be things like returning home for vacations when school is not in session. If this is the case, the student should not be allowed on a Vermont voter list and should be voting back home. Not here.

Although we would certainly like young people who come to Vermont for their higher education to stay here indefinitely, we know for a fact that the overwhelming majority of them don’t stay, nor do they intend to. A recent study by UVM discovered that 70% of Vermont college students either actively intend to leave Vermont after graduation (40%) or have no intention whatsoever (30%) about remaining. Only 30% of students have some or a likely intention to stay. As such, merely attending college in Vermont should not be seen as evidence of intent to remain indefinitely.

What would be evidence of intent to remain? Maybe getting a Vermont drivers license. Opening a Vermont based bank account. Remaining and working in Vermont during summer vacations. But, again, Vermont election officials from the Secretary of State on down do not enforce this aspect of election law. Why? You’ll have to ask them.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

H. Brooke Paige November 2, 2018 at 3:50 pm

Come on now Rob, if Jim Condos has no problem with counting the absentee votes of the recently dead, do you really think he is going to do his due diligence to insure that only: ” natural person(s) who (are) domiciled in the State as evidenced by an intent to maintain a principal dwelling place in the State indefinitely and to return there when temporarily absent, coupled with an act or acts consistent with that intent” are allowed to vote.

There is so much obfuscation and creating redirection relating to the enforcement of Title 17, Vermont’s Voting Laws that one can reliably do anything with a relative confidence that the Secretary of State will do nothing to pursue even blatant violations.

Maybe it’s time for some fresh blood as Vermont’s Secretary of State !


Marion Clegg November 2, 2018 at 10:12 pm

I never pursued all that information when I asked but after reading what Rob wrote I believe there should be a law that states they have to live here one year AFTER graduation to legally be able to vote. Really, how much do they really know about Vermont and its people?


Steve Hearne November 3, 2018 at 12:15 am

I believe this is the prime reason Randy Brock was edged out of the last race for Lt. Gov. two years ago . A hoard of non resident college snowflakes were bussed into the polls at the last minute and promised some really good weed for voting for Mr. Zuckerman.


Victor Yannessa November 4, 2018 at 11:39 am

Rob, You did not consider another issue. Some ‘expatriate ‘ college students vote in both places, back home by absentee ballot, and in the State of their college residence. The only question is how many. I have no way of knowing, and never read any studies, if investigations are being done. What I do know is that a large percentage of the population believes that the ends justifies the means, in the manner of the writings of Saul Alinski. It would be ridiculous for anyone to claim that there is no voter fraud in the United States. Whether counting votes from dead people, people who vote multiple times, and people who are ineligible to vote, actually swings elections, and deserves efforts to be prevented, can be debated.
How would officials in Vermont know if an individual also voted in another State,? Now, with all the ‘early voting’ weeks ahead of Election Day, it has become even easier to vote twice without an absentee ballot. There needs to be voter database sharing between States, and aggressive prosecution for voter fraud. Ineligible voters are actually stealing votes from legitimate voters. People who are convicted of this should permanently lose the right to vote, in addition to fines and at least some period of incarceration, so that others think twice before committing the same crime.


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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