Point of view

Combating GOP efforts to restrict youth voting

April 7, 2014 

Here’s a number that’s scary for Republicans: 18 percent. Since 2006, that has been the Democrats’ average lead among young voters nationwide, according to Gallup. It makes sense that the party that has stood in the way of marriage equality, immigration reform, minimum-wage increases, equal pay for equal work and college-aid increases would have a problem connecting with young Americans.

In election years, this gap matters even more. President Obama’s 67 percent share of young voters in 2012 was widely cited as a major contributor to his victory.

Well, it’s another election year, and despite a self-commissioned “Autopsy Report” calling on Republicans to shift gears with young people, the GOP hasn’t changed. Republicans shut down the government in an attempt to boot approximately 3 million young Americans off their families’ health insurance plans. They pushed for discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation in states across the country and continue to block immigration reform, which would help young immigrants gain access to higher education and a path to U.S. citizenship. House Republicans even voted for a bill that could dismantle the Obama administration’s action to provide relief from deportation for undocumented youth.

In short, the GOP is still pushing the same old agenda that has alienated young voters for years. And rather than taking concrete steps to appeal to young Americans, its 2014 strategy is becoming clear: Because they can’t win on their ideas, they’ve decided to rig the system.

In North Carolina, a restrictive GOP voter law prevents college students from using their school IDs as voter identification. In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration blocked the use of the University of Florida student union as an early voting site. In Pennsylvania, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is fighting a court decision invalidating the state’s restrictive voter ID law, which limited the types of student IDs that could be used to vote. After pushing a 2011 bill that would prevent many students from voting in their college towns, the Republican speaker of the New Hampshire House rationalized his support by saying that young voters are “foolish,” “liberal” and “just vote with their feelings.” And those are just four examples.

Voting restrictions affect all Americans, but they disproportionately hurt young people, working people, seniors, African-Americans, Latinos and women. The New York Times recently highlighted these attempts to make voting more difficult – saying that in the last year alone Republicans in nine states have passed measures making it harder to vote.

Crucial tools that allow young voters and all Americans to more easily participate in the electoral process are under attack by Republicans, from early voting hours and absentee voting to voting where you go to school. By ending or limiting these, Republicans aren’t targeting just anybody – they’re targeting us.

Unlike Republicans, who have doubled down on a cynical scheme to stymie voter turnout, Democrats have embraced key values – like inclusion and empowerment – that continue to define everything we do. We believe that more voices mean more prosperity and that there is no issue in this country that has ever been solved with less democracy. That’s why we’re acting to stop GOP efforts to make it more difficult to vote.

The Democratic Party’s push to expand the vote focuses on ensuring that every eligible citizen can register, that every registered voter can vote and that every vote is accurately counted. We’re doing this not only by challenging legislative obstacles to voting but also by proactively working to register more voters and strengthen the democratic process nationwide.

On this issue, as with many others, Democrats are standing with young Americans while Republicans are shutting them out. Our voices won’t be silenced. Instead, young people across the country are ready to fight these cynical political tactics and support Democratic efforts to expand the vote.

Louis Duke is president of the College Democrats of North Carolina. Taylor Myers is president of the College Democrats of Ohio. Colleen Cullen, chairman of the College Democrats of Wisconsin, and John Quiroz, president of the Florida College Democrats, also contributed.

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