Committed to Equal Rights & Justice – Young Voters

To give you an idea of how important the youth vote will be in 2014, in many of the states holding key Senate races, those  states had a much higher-than-average turnout of younger voters in 2012. Meaning there is plenty of room for a drop off among young voters – a concern for Democrats, who are counting on them to be vital part of their “Obama coalition.”

A new poll from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics  shows that young voters aren’t just much less likely to vote than they were in 2012; they’re significantly less likely. When Democrats lost control of the House, young voter turnout went down significantly from 2008 in one of the worst turnouts ever recorded.

Young Voters

Younger voters are generally Democrats’ best age group in terms of numbers at the polls. This year, only 23 percent said they planned on voting in the primaries. Should this lack of enthusiasm persist into the general elections in November, Democrats will have to gain those votes elsewhere. Furthermore, 32 percent of conservative young voters say they plan of voting in this election, compared to 22 percent of liberals.

Lawyers for seven college students in North Carolina have responded to the most visible aspect of suppressing voting among young voters by making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21, which held the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age. us/college-students-claim-voter-id-laws-discriminate-based-on-age.html?_r=1

There’s an unprecedented effort nationally by Republican-controlled legislatures to restrict the franchise in a way we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Marc Elias, the Democratic election lawyer which is bringing the age-discrimination claim. “Young voting in particular is a part of that effort.” Changing the voting rules particularly affect college students.

In Ohio, legislators proposed a law that would have cost colleges millions of dollars for helping out-of-state students vote. In Maine, at the behest of the state party chairman — the Republican secretary of state — investigated 200 students for fraud. After finding no evidence, he sent the students a letter warning them to register their cars in Maine or to cancel their voter registrations.

In Texas, voters must show a photo ID, a state university identification card does not qualify, but a state handgun license does. North Carolina students are also complaining of State efforts, separate from the new voting law, to shut down voting sites at Appalachian State University and Winston-Salem State University, both historically and predominately African-American schools.

Under the North Carolina law passed last year, the early voting period was shortened and same-day registration was eliminated. Beginning in 2016, voters will need to show photo identification, and student ID cards, including those issued by state universities, will not be acceptable, nor will an out-of-state driver’s license. The law also eliminated a program where teenagers filled out their voter-registration forms early and were automatically registered when they turned 18.

For people like me, it makes what should be a simple process very difficult,” said Josue Berduo, 20, an economics major at North Carolina State University and a Democrat one of the plaintiffs.

Jeff Tarte, a Republican state senator said lawmakers do not want to keep younger voters away from the polls; disingenuously claiming they want to prevent students from submitting absentee ballots in their home states and also voting in North Carolina. “Not that they would necessarily,” he said, “but why even offer that possibility to occur?

After signing the law, Governor McCrory, the former CEO of Duke energy claimed “While some will try to make this seem to be controversial, the simple reality is that requiring voters to provide a photo ID when they vote is a common-sense idea.” While lawyers for North Carolina argued that the state’s voting law is neither discriminatory nor an impediment to voting, claiming since law’s provisions have taken effect, state election data showed no decline in minority turnout in the recent primary.

One way of maintaining confidence in elections is to ensure that only those who are qualified to vote are actually registered to vote,” the state’s lawyers wrote in court documents, failing to even address the 26th Amendment claim.

While courts have consistently held that refusing to register students is as unlawful as refusing to register African-Americans, they have never before addressed allegations of age discrimination, like those charged in North Carolina. “If that’s a winning claim, that’s a big deal,” said Edward B. Foley, an Ohio State University law professor who runs the school’s election law center. But, he said, “there is a big ‘if’ here.”

The decline in younger voters alone won’t sink Democrats in the 2014 midterms. But coordinated efforts of voter suppression in Republican controlled states, combined with a lack of enthusiasm among several other key groups, including African Americans, Latinos and unmarried women, is a combination that could prove lethal. blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/04/29/another-really-scary-chart-for-democrats/

In order to win, Democrats will need more votes than in 2010; not less.

Next: Women Voters

Jon Taylor


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