9 Oct 04 - 12 Feb 12
Today's Front Page
Daily Iowan Staff
University of Iowa
Disenfranchising youth & minorities
By DI Editorial Board
Monday, September 20, 2004
Voter turnout among young people has been generally, and notoriously, low recently. In 2000, only 37 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, compared with 64 percent for those 25 and older. Interest in the upcoming election is reportedly at the highest level among college students since 18-20 year-olds were granted the right to vote in 1972. The increased interest by younger voters has been attributed to the war in Iraq, the cost of college tuition, and concerns over possible reinstatement of the draft. In order to ensure that young adults remain engaged in the political process, election officials must ensure that every individual who meets the legal requirements of the state has the chance to vote. In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students can vote where they go to school as long as they "establish residency," a vague definition with the potential to create controversy. The policy of the state of Iowa is that as long as individuals have an address, they can vote in this state. This includes college students who live in residence halls.
Thus, the recent attempts at nationwide voter disenfranchisement is troubling. In the state of Florida during the 2000 election, thousands of people, mostly blacks, were wrongfully barred from voting because their names were placed on a flawed list of convicted felons. Florida attempted to institute a new felon list for the 2004 election. The list included 2,100 citizens who had been granted clemency, restoring their voting rights, but they were still placed on the list. John Pappageorge, a white Republican state legislator in Michigan, has publicly said that if Republicans do not suppress the vote in largely black Detroit, the GOP will have a tough time in the election.
The disturbing trend of voter disenfranchisement has also spread toward college students. Students at Hamiliton College in New York were told that they could not vote at their university because they were not "permanent residents." In January, students who registered to vote at the College of William & Mary in Virginia were required by the city of Williamsburg to fill out a two-page questionnaire that included questions about their personal finances. Some students at Prairie View A&M University in Texas were even threatened with arrest because they were told by the local district attorney that they were not eligible to vote in the county in which the school was located. Regardless of whether the attempts of disenfranchisement were on purpose, these examples highlight the importance of young people knowing their rights when it comes to voting.
Voter intimidation and disenfranchisement is a serious matter and threat to a fair outcome of any election, particularly the presidential race of this year that remains a dead heat in many polls. The Election Protection Coalition, a group of 25,000 volunteers and 5,000 lawyers, has set up a phone number (1-800-OUR-VOTE) to provide assistance to voters who may experience unfair treatment at the polls. There is nothing liberal or conservative about an individual's right to vote. It is a fundamental individual right and the foundation of our democracy.
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