GOP Eager to Squelch Student Voters
Dwight Eisenhower backed the 18-year-old vote nearly 60 years ago. Richard Nixon backed it a decade and a half later. Forty years ago, every Republican in the Senate supported amending the Constitution to lower the voting age to 18 across the nation. Only 19 Representatives opposed the amendment in the House.
The key argument: If you're old enough to get drafted and die and kill for your country, you're old enough to cast ballots for the people likely to order you into battle. The only way to ensure that right, it was argued after a Supreme Court decision in the opposite direction, was to require the states and local governments to extend voting rights to 18-year-olds.
That was then and this is now. Today, and for several decades, Republican politicians (and a few Democrats) have sought in various ways to hamstring the right of 18-year-olds to vote, including employing scare tactics about student financial aid and voter fraud. College students living in communities other than where their parents live have been a particular target. The general view is that college students vote more for liberals than do older voters. That was certainly true in 1971, the first year in which 18-year-olds could vote. In some university-dominated towns such as Boulder, Colo., and Berkeley, Calif., local elections saw liberal candidates who rarely had a chance previously to get elected win public office. Subsequently, efforts have been made in many places to curtail that vote and its impact on local politics.
The latest vote-squelching effort, reports Emily Schultheis, has focused on photo I.D.s:
The past year or so has seen a sharp increase in the number of states passing laws requiring valid state IDs, or photo IDs, in order to cast a vote at the polls. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 15 states now require a photo ID at the polls — and several others are considering similar moves. One exception is Maine, which voted down a ban on same-day voter registration this November. States like Tennessee and Wisconsin, both of which have recently passed tougher laws, have effectively ruled out student IDs as valid on Election Day because they generally don’t contain required information like a current address.
With the 2012 primary season beginning in just over a month, student groups are scrambling to educate their campuses about new requirements in time for students to vote in the primaries. ...
Many college students don’t have a valid ID from the state where they’re attending school. In order to vote on or near campus, those students would need to apply for and get new state-issued IDs well in advance of primary day or Election Day.
The Republican Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, William O’Brien, said recently that allowing young people to register to vote on election day led to “the kids coming out of the schools and basically doing what I did when I was a kid, which is voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do—they don’t have life experience, and they just vote their feelings.”
The argument has often been that college students attend schools in communities where they have no business voting because they are only temporary residents not interested in local issues. Outsiders. Domestic furriners. But Americans generally, not just students, are a highly mobile people, or were until the housing crisis tied so many of them down with underwater mortgages. Students do have an interest in local issues: policing, matters such as bikeways, noise ordinances and taxes (which they pay every time they go to the store or pay off-campus rent since landlords don't cover the property levy out of their own pockets).
One group that has fought the efforts to suppress the votes not just of students but of all young people is Rock the Vote. Among other things, it has pushed for:
• Expanding options to vote early, including early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, expanding early voting centers and times, and retaining them in mail-ballot states;
• Providing Election Day or Same Day Registration;
• Implementing online voter registration, with the potential to expand it beyond voters with drivers licenses;
• Allowing pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds;
• Providing automatic and permanent voter registration; and
• Enacting state versions of the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act
All these make sense. And all of them are on the GOP hit list.