Disenfranchising young voters

New laws in 22 states hurt the young population’s right to vote

By Holly Vogtman

Staff Writer

hollyv1@umbc.edu

 With recent laws going in place for 22 states, the young people’s ability to vote is being impeded in both outright and sneaky ways. While Maryland is not one of these states, students that attend UMBC could be at risk depending on their home state according to endangered voting privileges.

   Being an informed and active voter is important for college students today, as these years are often the first ones in which students can vote.

Throughout the years, the process for voting has been facilitated with certain programs for young people such as absentee ballots, same-day voter registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

These kinds of programs are proven to work and were created to increase voting among young individuals. Many young people live away from home on college campuses, and these programs have helped them.

Voting by college students is important and should be encouraged by universities and state governments. However, 22 states are changing the laws before the midterm elections and are weakening college students’ and young people’s ability to vote. Some of these changes include the enforcement of stricter voting registration requirements and/or requiring certain types of ID in order to vote. Luckily, the state of Maryland and UMBC are not subject to these changes.

David Hoffman, the Assistant Director of Student Life for Civic Agency, said, “UMBC’s culture strongly supports and encourages engagement on campus and in our communities and democracy … UMBC encourages students to vote mainly by making registration materials and other election information available to all.”

But not every school is making the voting process easier: some states like North Carolina are making it more difficult for students to vote with laws coming into motion right before midterm elections.

Students at Appalachian State University, with a body of over 18,000, fought against the state as they attempted to have voting sites pushed further away from campus. The State Board of Elections was working to get a voting site removed from the campus, but in the end it failed to do so.

The protesters feared that their campus might have suffered the same fate as North Carolina State University, which had its own voting district closed by the board.

“Our election board should be making voting easier, not more difficult,” said Ian O’Keefe, a senior at Appalachian State, active in the local College Democrats.

North Carolina is facing other voting difficulties for the young population regarding a pack of laws called HB-589 that will take away pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and remove same day registration.

These kinds of laws are being found in 22 states now because of the Voting Rights Act that allows states to change their voting laws without federal permission.

Other states are making it difficult to register, as they make the individual show proof of citizenship through birth certificates, passports or naturalization papers.

These kinds of demands do not improve the process of registration for college students, as most do not keep citizenship documents on hand or even on campus.

Florida deemed student unions as unworthy sites to house early voting. Tennessee allows employees of public universities to use their employee IDs to vote, but students cannot use their school IDs.

Texas permits residents to use their handgun license as suitable voting ID, but again students are not allowed to use their own student ID cards.

The voting environment is becoming more and more unfriendly to the young generation, as it seems there is an agenda in certain states to dissuade younger voters.

Universities are the homes for many college students for the majority of the year including election times. This means that governments should be making programs to facilitate voting for young people, not hindering their constitutional right.