The People the GOP Would Rather Not Have Vote

Some state lawmakers think students are too "foolish" and "inexperienced" to vote

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Young voters have had a stronger presence in recent elections but some members of New Hampshire's House of Representatives would like to reverse course on that. The Washington Post reports on two state bills coming out of New Hampshire that propose to "permit students to vote in their college towns only if they or their parents had previously established permanent residency there" and, to get rid of election day registration, the source of many a young voter's involvement in elections and what the Republican Speaker of New Hampshire's House of Representatives William O'Brien believes is also the source of much election fraud.

According to the Post, O'Brien referred to young voters, particularly college kids, as "foolish" at a recent tea party gathering. From a YouTube video of his speech recorded by a staffer from the Democratic party: "Voting as a liberal. That's what kids do. Students lack life experience; they just vote their feelings."

Thirty-two states are also currently considering proposals for identification or "proof of citizenship" requirements on election day--an initiative largely backed by Republican state congressmen. Think Progress has a detailed list of 22 of these proposed laws. Democrats, on the other hand, "charge that the real goal, as with anti-union measures in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere, is simply to deflate the power of core Democratic voting blocs - in this case young people and minorities," writes the Post's Peter Wallsten, who quotes Republican North Carolina Representative Ric Killian's reasoning behind his own state's proposal for a similar legislation. He says, "I want to know when I walk into a poll that they know I am who I say I am and that nobody else has said that they are me."

So far, though Republicans are hardly the first to toy with voting systems, these new regulations have received mostly negative reactions from bloggers and others. Washington Monthly's liberal Steve Benen, for one, is offended by what he considers to be "anti-voting tactics. They undermine democracy in a rather fundamental way," he explains. "It's one thing to lie one's way through a campaign; it's more damaging to the integrity of the country to stop people who disagree with you from even having a say in the process."

At the Huffington Post, Rock the Vote's executive director, Heather Smith, points out that students on several campuses are already resisting the advancement of such legislation. One University of Wisconsin student, for example "is leading the charge against SB-6, a law that would not accept student IDs as a valid form of identification and would force students to pay $28 for a state-issued ID." Smith insists that efforts should be focused on making it easier, not harder for people to vote. "The ideal solution would be automatic, permanent registration for all American citizens ages 18 and older. It's the best way to ensure that all Americans can exercise their voting rights,"  she writes.

Mother Jones's similarly left-leaning blogger Kevin Drum is also skeptical of the promotion of such legislation as an attempt to limit voter fraud. "They're lying," he writes. "The real reason that Republicans are so gung ho on these measures, even though there's no measurable voting-booth fraud anywhere in the United States, is because certain demographic groups are less likely to have picture IDs than others." He sites one part of the Washington Post article that notes that a large percentage of black voters in particular do not have state-issued identification. "Imagine that," writes Drum. "It might suppress black turnout, which helped Obama win the state two years ago."

Republicans, of course, still haven't forgotten 1960. Which is worse: making it difficult for real citizens to vote or diluting those votes with false ones?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.