Heres a number thats 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 Obamas 67 percent share of young voters in 2012 was widely cited as a major contributor to his victory.
Well, its another election year, and despite a self-commissioned Autopsy Report calling on Republicans to shift gears with young people, the GOP hasnt 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 administrations 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 cant win on their ideas, theyve 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 Scotts 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 states 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 arent targeting just anybody theyre 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. Thats why were acting to stop GOP efforts to make it more difficult to vote.
The Democratic Partys 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. Were 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 wont 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.