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College Students’ Voting Rights Placed on the Table

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Young Americans have had a very strong presence in recent elections, but Republican state lawmakers are hoping to end the trend.

Dozens of voting-related bills are being pushed by House Republicans to “bring fairness and restore confidence in a voting system vulnerable to fraud” while Democrats claim that their real goal is to deflate the power of core Democratic voters—namely, young people and minorities.

College Student Voters Lack Life Experience, Says NH Speaker of the House

William O’Brien, New Hampshire’s Republican Speaker of the House, is fighting for new laws that would prohibit many college students from voting in the state and keep many others from voting at all. Opponents of the proposed bills have criticized them as morally wrong and unconstitutional; proponents claim that college students lack “life experience” and “just vote their feelings."

One bill would permit students to vote in their college towns only if they or their parents had previously established permanent residency there – requiring all others to vote in the states or other New Hampshire towns they come from. Another bill would end Election Day registration, which O’Brien said unleashes swarms of students on polling places, creating opportunities for fraud, reports the Washington Post.

Requiring Proof of ID May Hurt College Student Voters

While limited by federal law and court rulings, states have authority over how they run elections. Many states do not require identification to vote and measures are being proposed in 32 states that would add an ID requirement or proof of citizenship to the voting process. “I want to know when I walk into the poll that they know I am who I say I am and that nobody else has said that they are me,” said Republican North Carolina state Representative Ric Killian.

Sam Polstein, an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Chair of Legislative Affairs for the Associated Students of Madison, is asking young people to Save the Student Voice on Facebook. Polstein reports on the Rock the Vote blog that his state’s proposed “Voter ID Bill” would place an unnecessary burden on Wisconsin student voters.

Currently, an eligible Wisconsin voter can register at the polls on Election Day with a lease, bank statement, or utility bill containing their name and current address, or have someone vouch for their identity. Republicans have proposed to eliminate the vouching process and require every voter to have a Wisconsin State ID card or Driver’s License, Passport, or military ID. College-issued student IDs would not be an acceptable form of identification.

An analysis by the North Carolina State Board of Elections showed that any new law requiring a state-issued ID could be problematic for large numbers of voters, particularly African Americans, whose turnout in 2008 helped President Obama win the state, reports Mother Jones, a nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political and social justice reporting.

College Republicans Against Voting Bills

College Republicans are unhappy about the situation. “This bill benefits Republican causes, which is why Republicans are proposing it,” Richard Sunderland, a senior and president of the Dartmouth College Republicans in New Hampshire, told Campus Progress. “But the way I see the lines here, is we are students and first and foremost, as students, this is attacking our right to vote.”

Sayak Mukherjee, head of the Dartmouth College Democrats agreed, saying that “The fact that the College Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians are united just goes to show that there is a lot of solidarity about this issue across campus.”

Rock the Vote

“It’s a war on voting,” Thomas Bates, vice president of Rock the Vote, told the Washington Post. “We’d like to be advocating for a 21st-century voting system, but here we are fighting against efforts to turn it back to the 19th century.”

With the voting age at the time set at 21 years of age, Senator Ted Kennedy argued that it was wrong that young Americans could be drafted to serve in Vietnam, but could not vote. In 1970, President Richard Nixon signed a law that required the voting age to be 18 in all federal, state and local elections, bringing the country’s young people into the political process.

Founded nearly twenty years ago in response to a wave of attacks on freedom of speech and artistic expression, the MTV-themed Rock the Vote is an organization dedicated to building the political power and clout of the Millennial Generation by registering and turning out young people, by forcing the candidates to campaign to them, and by making politicians pay attention to youth and the issues they care about once in office. Rock the Vote is urging voters to join their campaign Voter Suppression is Un-American.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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