In Tennessee, a new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls explicitly excludes student IDs.
In Wisconsin, college students are newly disallowed from using university-provided housing lists or corroboration from other students to verify their residence.
Florida’s reduction in early voting days is expected to reduce the number of young and first-time voters there.
And Pennsylvania’s voter identification bill, still on the books for now, disallows many student IDs and non-Pennsylvania driver’s licenses, which means out-of-state students may be turned away at the polls.
In 2008, youth voter turnout was higher that it had been since Vietnam, and overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. This time around, the GOP isn’t counting solely on disillusionment to keep the student vote down.
In the last two years, Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed dozens of bills that erect new barriers to voting, all targeting Democratic-leaning groups, many specifically aimed at students. The GOP’s stated rationale is to fight voter fraud. But voter fraud — and especially in-person fraud which many of these measures address — is essentially nonexistent.
None of the new laws blocks student voting outright — although in New Hampshire, Republican lawmakers almost passed a bill that would have banned out-of-state students from casting a ballot. (The leader of the State House, Bill O’Brien, was caught on tape explaining how the move was necessary to stop students from “basically doing what I did when I was a kid: voting as a liberal.”)
And in some states, education officials are trying to limit the damage. In Pennsylvania, for instance, many universities are either reissuing IDs or printing expiration stickers to make current cards valid, according to a survey by the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group.
But every additional barrier makes a difference to students, said Maxwell Love, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “It’s the little things that make voting harder that are going to affect apathetic students … This is like literally slamming the door on youth engagement.”
Pennsylvania is a swing state; it’s also the state with the most out-of-state students in the country.
Out-of-state students are particularly vulnerable, Kaiser-Jones said, because they otherwise have no need to get in-state ID.
“You can do anything else in Pennsylvania with a driver’s license from another state,” he said, “except vote.”
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