Don't make it harder for college students to vote

The Dallas Morning NewsJuly 14, 2014 

The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Friday, July 11:

For years, teenagers could serve in the military yet could not vote. All that changed with the passage of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, allowing millions of young people to participate actively in the democratic process and shape their future.

In North Carolina, a new restrictive voting law threatens to reduce that voice. Now seven college students are fighting back, claiming the change interferes with college students' right to vote and violates the 26th Amendment, which includes the line that voting by those 18 or older "shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age."

For those of us who want to see voting barriers broken down, not erected, we hope the students win this challenge. We also hope other states are watching.

The North Carolina law, passed last year, had a number of bad provisions: It shortened the period for early voting, eliminated same-day registration and required photo IDs. That poses particular problems for older and minority citizens as well as college students, prompting civil rights groups to describe the law as the worst since Jim Crow.

The new law also specifically rejected university-issued student photo ID cards as an accepted identification. Out-of-state driver's licenses also were deemed unacceptable.

North Carolina lawmakers say they are trying to prevent students from submitting absentee ballots in their home states and also voting in North Carolina, but they have no evidence whatsoever that this is a problem or ever will be a problem. So we're glad to see these students dish out their own civics lesson in a courtroom.

The case has implications for Texas, which also requires voters to produce a photo ID and nixes state university identification cards and out-of-state driver's licenses as proper ID.

It is easy to decipher the politics behind the North Carolina and other highly restrictive voting rights laws. When galvanized, voters under the age of 30 wield significant voting clout.

This group accounted for about 15 percent of the total vote cast nationally in 2012, a bloc large enough to keep any election close. In 2008, the youth vote tipped North Carolina in favor of Barack Obama. In 2012, those under 30 in the state turned out at a 57 percent rate, among the highest in the country. Republican Mitt Romney carried North Carolina, but the youth vote kept the race competitive.

When the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Texas immediately reinstated its previously blocked voter ID law, which includes voter photo requirements that this newspaper believes are excessive, unwarranted and intended to suppress voter turnout.

Voting is not a perk for politicians to play with; it is a constitutional right to be encouraged, not obstructed.

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