North Dakota University System Defends Its Dubious Student Voter Guide

The North Dakota University System, which oversees the state’s public colleges, has been telling students they could lose scholarships depending on the manner in which they vote.

It’s striking some people as very unusual for the university to take a stance on students’ personal voting habits.

Specifically, NDUS is warning students they could lose scholarships if they vote using a sworn affidavit, which is a legal way of voting for people who don’t have a valid ID.

“If scholarships are tied to residency, then students should be cautious and cognizant about where they are swearing residency,” NDUS spokeswoman Billie Jo Lorius told Mean Read. “Swearing an affidavit is a serious action, and whether or not one will get caught claiming conflicting residences is no way to make an ethical decision. Our students are not timid; they are smart, they care about voting and the law, and they can do their own risk-assessment.”

She adds, “We hope that students get out to vote and participate in the democratic process.”

The part where Lorius says “whether or not one will get caught” makes us wonder if NDUS will be monitoring where students vote. We asked but haven’t heard back yet.

We still don’t understand why NDUS is getting involved in students’ voting preferences. Mentioning loss of scholarships and voting in the same sentence is a sure way to spook students out of voting.

And given that a federal judge just last month ordered the state of North Dakota to reinstate sworn affidavits as a legal voting option, it’s odd that the state university system would seem to be discouraging it.

Yesterday, Fargo’s KVLY-TV picked up this story, which we’ve been following for a few days, reporting that “if you cast a ballot somewhere other than your registered residence, there’s a chance you could lose any scholarships with residency requirements.”

KVLY gave an example of how this might happen: “It has to do with requirements like these found in a nursing scholarship: the person must live within 100 miles of Fargo. Casting a vote in a location other than what’s on your driver’s license can be considered as you living in that location. You received this scholarship as you lived within 100 miles of Fargo. Should you vote in say Dickinson, you could be forfeiting those requirements.”

Here’s the bottom line, as far as we’re concerned: If you’re going to college in North Dakota, then you live here, and you should be able to vote here without your school penalizing you. Period.