New Orleans The persistent political canard has been that, sure, you can register young people, but most of them are not going to vote. The Trump turmoil and the urgency of climate change is overturning whatever conventional wisdom that might have been attached to that notion in the past. Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education found that the turnout of college students in the 2018 midterms hit 40.3% of ten million students, double the rate from 2014. In these times of course, expect reaction to such action, and that usually means voter suppression, especially with every poll of young people seeming to indicate that they are becoming ever more Democratic, and, oh mercy, feeling ever friendlier to socialism.
New Hampshire has tried to pushback on student voting by requiring a student show both a New Hampshire driver’s license and auto registration, while absorbing the costs of both, according to reporting in the New York Times. Florida’s Secretary of State, Republican of course, tried outlawing early-voting in 2014, but after federal courts slapped him down, 60,000 voters cast on-campus ballots in 2018. The sneaky Republican-majority Florida legislature slipped a requirement that ballot locations had to have non-permitted parking access in order to try and prevent on-campus voting in 2020. North Carolina pulled a wink-and-nod, saying that student IDs would be valid for voting identification, but then made the requirements to get them so extreme that universities in the main were unable to comply and less than half of the more than 180 accredited schools in the state have now even tried to certify their IDs. In Wisconsin, Republicans require poll workers to check signatures only on student IDs though some schools have removed signatures so that the IDs can be modernized as debit cards and dorm room keys. Tennessee and Texas are among the worst at allowing students to vote. Of course, just not allowing sites on-campus, while putting them in nursing homes and senior centers makes the point pretty powerfully as well and that happens just about everywhere.
The Voter Purge Project, a joint effort of the American Voter Project, ACORN International, and Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center has found in its review of voter files and the efforts to purge records a similar bias in the states reviewed, which include Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina among others. The standard rationale for purges is people dying and moving. The data shows that the fewest purges are among the elderly cohort, 65 and older, where, frankly, people are dying the most. According to the Ohio demographer, one million die annually. The highest level of purges though are the youngest cohorts 18 and above. Further analysis by the project may find this to be common in all of these states. Further research will have to determine whether there is a major differential between Republican and Democratic leaning states in handling purges.
The student vote is going to matter in 2020. The fight for access and against suppression is one that we need to engage immediately.