College students could impact Sunday alcohol sales referendum

Published 3:02 am Thursday, June 29, 2017

College students could play a pivotal role this October when Troy residents head to the polls to vote on Sunday alcohol sales in the city.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said no law would keep college students from voting in the city in which they attend school.

Merrill said there are five things to consider in determining someone’s eligibility to vote in an Alabama election. He or she must be a United States citizen and a resident of Alabama, must be 18 years old or older on the date the election is held, must not have been convicted of any disqualifying felonies and must not have been judged mentally incompetent.

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“If an individual meets all five of those standards, they’re eligible to vote in any election or referendum,” Merrill said. “There’s no question if somebody claims the residence hall or apartment or trailer or any other habitat in Pike County while a student at Troy University, that person is eligible to vote in the election.”

The only thing any college student would have to do is register to vote in the local election two weeks prior, whether that’s registering to vote for the first time or changing their registration, he said.

Merrill said doing so is a simple process in Alabama.

“We have an app for that,” Merrill said. “They can do that on their phone now. The app is called ‘Vote for Alabama.’ You don’t even have to go to the courthouse. The only thing you need to use the phone app is a valid Alabama driver’s license.”

There is one more added stipulation though in the municipal election, according to Troy City Clerk Alton Starling, who manages the municipal elections. “You have to live in the district 30 days prior,” Starling said.

Starling explained that anybody that establishes a residence within the city 30 days prior to the election can register to vote in the city that day – they don’t have to actually wait until they’ve lived there for the full 30 days.

So any college students who are 18 or older and have established a residence in Troy by September 10 would be eligible to register for the election right up until September 26, some 14 days before the election.

Troy students have the potential to have a big impact on the election too: best estimates show they make up over a third of Troy’s population.

“We had 18,935 residents as of the 2010 census and we’re estimated at about 20,000 now,” Starling said. “And the college has about 7,000 students.”

Not all of those students may be eligible to vote – some are international students, some may be under 18 at the time of the election – but the majority of students are Americans of voting age.

Starling said the amount of college students that actually decide to participate in the vote though depends on how energized they are.

“I’ve witnessed college students vote in the past depending on how energized they get behind a certain candidate,” Starling said. “But many students stay registered in the place they’re from.”

Most students are still enjoying their summer breakout of town, but once they return, they’ll have a decision to make on whether they want to have a say in the matter.