Disenfranchising young voters

Ruy Teixeira makes a strong case today that the youth vote will be critical to President Obama’s re-election chances, and if young adults don’t show up, Republican odds improve significantly.

This point is not lost on GOP officials. Indeed, as a New York Times editorial makes clear today, the importance of the youth vote has led Republicans to consider this as part of their war on voting.

Next fall, thousands of students on college campuses will attempt to register to vote and be turned away. Sorry, they will hear, you have an out-of-state driver’s license. Sorry, your college ID is not valid here. Sorry, we found out that you paid out-of-state tuition, so even though you do have a state driver’s license, you still can’t vote.

Political leaders should be encouraging young adults to participate in civic life, but many Republican state lawmakers are doing everything they can instead to prevent students from voting in the 2012 presidential election. Some have openly acknowledged doing so because students tend to be liberal.

Seven states have already passed strict laws requiring a government-issued ID (like a driver’s license or a passport) to vote, which many students don’t have, and 27 others are considering such measures. Many of those laws have been interpreted as prohibiting out-of-state driver’s licenses from being used for voting.

It’s all part of a widespread Republican effort to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic.

Generally, when GOP officials put new barriers between Americans and their democracy, Republicans at least try to keep up appearances, pointing to imaginary voter fraud as a rationale for the restrictions.

But when it comes to young adults, some GOP policymakers simply drop the pretense — the speaker of the New Hampshire State House recently conceded that students’ access to the ballot box should be blocked because young people tend to “vote their feelings,” which leads them to vote “as a liberal.”

When we talk about the Republicans’ war on voting, we tend to focus on the impact felt by the elderly, the poor, and racial and ethnic minorities. But the youth vote matters every bit as much, and GOP policies are deliberately intended to limit their participation, too.

There’s no mystery here, and Republicans aren’t even being subtle — they’re trying to rig an entire election cycle by putting the most severe hurdles between Americans and the voting process since Jim Crow. The GOP fears losing in a fair fight, so the party is trying to rig the game through voter suppression, plain and simple.