Courtesy of DailyKoshttp://feeds.dailykos.com/~r/dailykos/index/~3/KM1ZP7J14S0/-Assault-on-student-voting:-Just-the-latest-GOP-overreach
The right to cast a ballot and choose one's representatives in government from alderman to president is viewed as a quintessential and inalienable right of the American democratic experience. The expansion of this right to an ever-wider range of previously disenfranchised populations has been a cornerstone of all the great civil rights movements in America. And not coincidentally, these expansions have been opposed by conservatives at every turn.
The original American conservatives were the Tories, who opposed the very idea of a free America and wanted to ensure that the only "voter" who mattered was the King of England, but their undemocratic ideas were defeated by a popular revolution and the radical notion of Thomas Jefferson that people should be able to choose their leaders—or at the very least, the white landowners who were the only ones really considered people at the time. Subsequent generations saw a gradual expansion of the franchise: to those who did not own land, to blacks, to women, and finally, to young people between the ages of 18 and 20 who had the obligation to fight in our country's wars, but did not have the right to vote for the people who got to declare them.
At every step of the way, these movements were opposed—often with violence—by conservatives who wanted to keep things exactly the way they were and leave the decision-making in the hands of the people who most resembled them, rather than see rights be expanded to entire groups of people who just might have a different political perspective. Not coincidentally, these groups of more recently enfranchised voters tend to vote far less conservatively; it's a natural instinct, after all, not to vote for the politicians who promise to follow in the footsteps of those who actively sought to curtail hard-fought freedoms.
Because of this, many conservative politicians have done their absolute best to limit the voting rights of the types of people who would generally vote against them—most often black voters or young voters, since these two groups are the ones most likely to vote for Democrats. (If conservatives could successfully attempt to restrict the rights of women to vote, they probably would, but women are evenly distributed throughout the population, while black voters and young voters tend to live in more concentrated areas such as particular neighborhoods or college towns, making their usual voter-caging and voter-suppression tactics far more actionable.) Stringent voter ID laws have been introduced in several conservative-leaning states under the premise that they are urgently needed to prevent voter fraud, even though only a handful of cases of voter fraud are ever prosecuted in a given year.
The real objective of these bills, of course, is to make it harder for Democratic-leaning voters—poorer people, immigrants, and young voters especially—to cast a ballot. This real objective was never explicitly stated, of course—until now. New Hampshire State Representative Gregory Sorg recently sponsored a flatly unconstitutional statute to eliminate the right of New Hampshire's college students to cast a ballot where they go to school. But most crucially, his argument against the franchise for students was not based on their residency, but based on the decisions they made when voting:
In prepared remarks, Sorg referred to students as "transient inmates . . . with a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce."He wasn't alone: these same sentiments were echoed by New Hampshire House Speaker O'Brien, who also felt that younger voters should be disenfranchised until they learned to vote his way:
New Hampshire's new Republican state House speaker is pretty clear about what he thinks of college kids and how they vote. They're "foolish," Speaker William O'Brien said in a recent speech to a tea party group.
"Voting as a liberal. That's what kids do," he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack "life experience," and "they just vote their feelings.
Conservatives have always wanted to do this. They have always felt that students and minorities should not be able to vote because they don't make the same decisions. But until now, they have never had the temerity to come out and say it. Similarly, conservatives have always wanted to destroy public employee unions. They have long chipped around the edges and made hints and rumblings. But until now, they have never dared to do what Gov. Scott Walker has done in Wisconsin. In like fashion, conservatives have always wanted to roll the clock back on women's rights. They have gradually restricted abortion rights in all the ways they possibly could under the constitution, and hinted that birth control was a net negative for society. But now they dare to openly change the definition of rape and defund the vital family planning and cancer prevention services that so many women of lesser means rely on.
Just like the all-out conservative assault on women and on public employee unions, this new assault on the voting rights of our youth is an example of the type of overreach that will once again doom the GOP to minority status in the years to come. Voters were frustrated with Democrats in 2010 that not enough progress had been made on jobs. They did not vote for the GOP because they truly wanted to see the elimination of the labor movement, access to birth control, and voting rights for college students. The biggest mistake made by conservative politicians is a fundamental belief that their skill in messaging and winning elections truly translates into real support for their actual policy ideas. If they keep going down this road, they will soon find out the truth—the hard way.