Photo-ID Laws Pose Hurdle for College Voters
New America Media | 8/31/2012, 11:01 a.m.
Photo-ID laws are not the only barriers that students may now face. Rowland cited states that have shortened the timeframe during which a student may declare residency. Laws imposing unrealistic bureaucratic burdens and costs on voter registration drives have been particularly burdensome.
Pushback to restrictive voting laws
In some states, members of the public, galvanized by civil rights groups, are pushing back against restrictive voting laws.
In Florida, early voting days have been restored by a panel of judges this month and, in a separate May decision, a federal judge blocked provisions of a law he termed "impractical" due to its onerous fines and reporting requirements for organizations conducting voter registration drives. Rock the Vote, with the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida Public Interest Research Group, brought the suit that successfully rescinded those requirements.
Like the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin school systems' initiatives on reissuing student IDs, Rowland of the Brennan Center cited the Florida victories, as well as other citizen-led push backs against restrictive laws as victories in the rapidly shifting landscape of the voter suppression wars.
Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote, said one unfortunate aspect of the rash of new laws is that her organization has had to spend time challenging them as opposed to getting about its core mission of registering new voters and educating them about the political process.
Courting the youth vote
To assist young voters to obtain the information they need about voting, Rowland said the Brennan Center has posted its 50-State Student Voting Guide as an on-line resource. Smith said Rock the Vote, at the end of August, plans to launch a massive public education campaign through social media, campus newspapers, billboards and other avenues designed to reach Millennials.
Regardless of the scale of Rock the Vote's outreach, Smith has no illusions about the difficulties of the task ahead. "The Census [Bureau] reported that over six million voters in the last presidential election didn't cast a ballot because they didn't get registered in time," she noted, adding that students often fail to understand that "they have to register in the place where they want to vote."
The laws tightening restrictions on young voters -- shortening the time lines for registering or for reporting a change in residency -- have arisen from Republican legislatures concerned about the youth vote, particularly its burgeoning African-American and Latino segments, that have trended Democratic in recent presidential elections. Smith said "50,000 Latinos are turning 18 each month," and "just over 12,000 kids every single day become eligible to vote."
Still, some analysts predict that the youth vote will be very much in play for several reasons. For one, the Millennial Generation is clearly concerned about their job prospects in a lagging economy, but additionally, young voters and first-time voters are often enthusiastic for change. On the flipside, some are so jaded that they decline to participate in electoral politics. None of those sentiments bode well for incumbents.
Smith didn't speak to political aspects of restrictive laws, but she was critical of those who claim to desire a better democracy, while simultaneously erecting barriers to voting.
"When young people participate at an early age, they're voters for the rest of their lives," Smith said, "and if the strength of a democracy is determined by the participation of its citizens, we should be celebrating and encouraging participation amongst our newest and youngest voters, not making it harder for them to show up."