I take issue with the arguments posited in Mr. Ackerman’s recent letter to the editor lamenting state laws allowing college students to vote where they study. Mr. Ackerman contends that these laws constitute voter nullification skewing local elections to not reflect the will of the county’s residents.

The crux of Mr. Ackerman’s argument against allowing students to vote in local elections is that students are not actual residents of Watauga County since they do not pay property taxes. However, only property owners pay property taxes. Approximately 63% of houses in Watauga County are owner-occupied, implying that a substantial proportion of the county’s population lives in a rented home and does not pay property taxes. Do these individuals (students or not) not have a right to self-governance? Additionally, property taxes are just one avenue through which residents fund local government, accounting for about 56% of the county’s anticipated revenues in fiscal year 2022/2023. Meanwhile, local sales tax, which college students certainly pay, account for about 21% of anticipated revenues. Defining residency based on paying into certain streams of county tax revenues rather than others seems arbitrary. Instead, I would base residency on where an individual resides the majority of the year – a definition that would include most college students.

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