Thursday, October 11, 2007

Barriers to On-Campus Voting

In an article issued by the Politico this week, it is reported that college students are most affected by requirements imposed on voters, and as such are less likely to cast votes. The Politico states that barriers such as being unable to register, long lines, and voter challenges at the polls prevent a large number of college students from participating in elections. While these barriers prevent or discourage others from voting, one expert, Tova Andrea Wang of The Century Foundation, states that, “Many of the problems that can prevent anyone from voting fall disproportionately hard on students”.

Especially problematic for many students relate to voter identification requirements that are being instituted in many states. Many voters are being required to show picture identification, verifying that the address on their identification matches the address given for registration purposes. A large number of students do not have driver’s licenses, the identification most commonly presented for identification verification purposes. Even those who do possess valid state IDs may be prevented from voting as their identification would most likely contain their home address, an address not matching their campus address they used in registering to vote.

Another issue has arisen in the dissemination of misinformation. The article points to an instance at Prairie View A&M, where students were informed that they were not eligible to vote in the county. Even without intent to misinform, misunderstandings and/or honest mistakes from the people on campus providing information may cause students to believe they are not eligible to vote on their campuses.

Steps are being undertaken to introduce legislation that would correct many of these problems in time for the 2008 election. Steps are being taken to criminalize the deliberate dissemination of misinformation, and legislation is being considered that would require states to mail registration forms to all students and provide for Election Day registration. In order to encourage voter turnout, the Senate Rules Committee is considering creating a federal holiday for Election Day. These steps are seen as ways to ensure students are given a proper opportunity to participate in the election process and encourage them to do so.

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