Monday, May 31, 2004

Disenfranchising college students

The latest right-wing tactic to steal the election: prevent college students from voting. From a revealing Rolling Stone article:

... in recent years, many election officials have been building a variety of hurdles to make it more difficult for students to register and vote. In May 2002, the city council in Saratoga Springs, New York, shut down a polling place at Skidmore College, forcing students to travel off-campus to vote. That same year, a judge in Arkansas tried to block 1,000 students at Ouachita Baptist University and Henderson State University from casting ballots, ruling that they must vote in their hometowns -- even though the deadline for absentee ballots had already passed. And when students from the University of New Hampshire showed up at the polls on Election Day that year, poll workers handed them a pamphlet warning them that voting locally could affect their financial aid and taxes. The scare tactic worked: Many students left without voting.

Refusing to register students is "a blatant form of disenfranchisement," says Jennifer Weiser, who advocates for young voters as associate counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. "It's clearly illegal."

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There's no way to tell how many college students are being turned away by local election boards -- but observers say it could be enough to re-elect George Bush this fall. Voters under the age of twenty-four favored the Democrats by at least twenty percentage points in each of the past three presidential elections, and polls this year indicate that they favor John Kerry by as many as ten points. If the race is as close as last time, keeping turnout down among voters at one major college campus in each battleground state could tip the election to the Republicans.

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