State legislatures across the country are seemingly at war with the voting rights of a large number of U.S. college students, though laws are being drafted under the guise of reducing arbitrary levels of voter fraud.
The efforts, spearheaded by Republican leadership, must be recognized for what they are: unethical and politically motivated assaults on the voting rights of perceived political opponents.
A major example of these efforts are those of New Hampshire House Republicans, who hope to prevent college students from voting in their college town unless they or their parents are already residents there.
These maneuvers to limit the numbers of college voters are right in line with O’Brien’s feelings toward voters who are in college.
“Voting as liberal. That’s what kids do,” O’Brien said to an audience of tea party members in January.
He also said students lack necessary “life experience” and that “they just vote their feelings.”
It seems his ignorant and foolish dismissal of college students’ intellectual capabilities, as well as his overreaching definition of their political motivations, are not only being spread to the governmental halls of New Hampshire, but also to other states.
Republicans in North Carolina and Wisconsin are working diligently to create new laws regarding the use of photo IDs in elections.
According to the Washington Post, North Carolina’s bill would require that only state-issued IDs be used at polls. This would disproportionally affect black voters, according to the Post, as well as college students. Many out-of-state students don’t have in-state IDs and have traditionally been able to vote with their college ID.
GOP-backed bills in Wisconsin would prohibit the use of student IDs for elections, but not the use of state IDs or passports, which many wealthy voters may be able to afford.
These proposals could cost the state money if it must pay for voter IDs in order to avoid the requirement becoming a virtual poll tax, a maneuver that was historically used to limit the number of black voters after the American Civil War.
Requiring voters to spend money to vote is a violation of the 24th Amendment of the U.S Constitution and could lead to such efforts being thrown out by the courts, as similar efforts in Georgia were in 2005.
The suggestions that these laws must be passed to avoid rampant voter fraud are at best questionable and difficult to prove. At worst, they are a weak excuse to limit the turnout of voters who may vote against Republicans in the upcoming 2012 presidential elections.
Even some Republicans have questioned their party’s own efforts.
“There’s no doubt that this bill would help Republican causes, (but) this doesn’t help if the Republican Party wants to try to win over people in the 18-24 age range,” Richard Sunderland, head of the Dartmouth College Republicans, said to the Post.
Upset college students should prove Sunderland right and display their displeasure with these policies, much like student protesters of the generation many current GOP leaders belong to did in response to the Vietnam War or civil rights struggle.
These efforts will, at least, affect the rights of a large number of students. The silencing of students’ political voices isn’t just wrong, it’s a troubling blow to the heart of the U.S. system of representative democracy. It wouldn’t allow an accurate representation of all eligible voters.