Out of State College Students and the Election At Gettysburg College

Christina Noto ’19 – Inside Politics Participant

There has been a lot of conversation about voter registration recently due to the fact that Pennsylvania is a swing state. College students have been encouraged to change their voter registration to a state that could determine the results of the election. If you live in New York, California, or Massachusetts, why vote in a state which will definitely go blue when you could change your registration to vote in a purple state? Why vote in Alabama, South Carolina, or Kentucky, all red states, when you could vote in Pennsylvania? College students in Pennsylvania could greatly impact the outcome of this and future elections.

Is this a fair system? Some people have the opportunity to choose what state they vote in, while others only have the choice of one state. College students that live out of state can choose to vote in their home state or the state in which they go to college. sponsors and its purpose is to encourage and explain how to register to vote. There is a section that is solely dedicated to college students. The first paragraph of that page reads, “if you’re a student in Pennsylvania who has moved to a new county or a new state to attend college, you can still vote. As a college student, you have two choices on where you register to vote. You have the right to register and vote where you live now, whether that is an on-campus or off-campus address. Or, you may choose to register or remain registered and vote at your prior home address.” There are 14 public colleges and 154 private colleges in Pennsylvania. According to Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education in the Fall of 2015 there were 13,423 out of state students going to public colleges within Pennsylvania. Each of these students had the option to change their registration.

The main reason college students would be changing their registration would be to impact the national election. This clearly makes sense, but what are the reason students would decide to keep their voter registrations in their home state? First, their state is a swing state: If there are students from another swing state, they could change their registration to Pennsylvania, but either way, their vote could potentially determine the outcome of a swing state. Secondly, the state may have close local or state elections. To take control of the House of Representatives, either party needs to win 218 seats. Of the 435 house elections only 47 of them are considered competitive and of those 47 only 17 do not seem to be leaning a certain way.

One of those 17 seats is in my home district, NY-19, so I decided not to change my registration. Chris Gibson, the Republican from the 19th District, is retiring after six years serving in the House of Representatives. Since he is retiring, a seat has opened in my district. Although this district usually leans Republican, in 2012 and 2008 it was split. It went blue for the Presidential election, but red in the Congressional election. Since this will be a close race, I find it important to keep my registration in New York and vote in my home district. Other students may have kept their registration in their home state for similar reasons. While college students have the potential to have a great impact on this election, 1.7 million people ages 18-24 are not registered. In the 2008 election only 20% of the eligible voters 18-29 voted. Young people have the potential to impact the election outcome, especially out of state college students who have the opportunity to choose where they vote.

Voters want their voices to be heard, by allowing college students to choose where they register, does this allow for all voices to be heard equally? Many people are disheartened by the current system. Some people feel that their vote does not matter. Although they might feel that way, it is important that people take the advantage of this opportunity to vote.


The views and opinions expressed are the students and the organizations whom they represent and do not necessarily represent the views of The Eisenhower Institute or Gettysburg College.