Young people "lack life experience," are "foolish," vote "as a liberal," and "just vote their feelings," apparently, all reasons to shut down or limit their access to democratic participation. At least, that's what New Hampshire state House Speaker William O'Brien seems to think, causing partisans like him to take matters to the Legislature.
Yesterday, Washington Post writer Peter Wallsten wrote on Speaker O'Brien's YouTubed speech to a N.H. tea party group, linking his views to the state Republicans' assault on young people's access to the ballot. Among the measures under consideration are HB 176, a bill to "permit students to vote in their college towns only if they or their parents had previously established permanent residency there," and HB 223, a bill to end the state's Election Day Registration policy, a policy that is known to increase overall voter turnout, especially among young people.
The House Election Law committee is scheduled to hear both bills today.
New Hampshire is not the only state to challenge voters' access to the ballot. More states are introducing and advancing anti-EDR, voter ID, and proof-of-citizenship bills. All are based around alarmist notions of election problems, particularly the unsubstantiated threat of voter fraud.
So, why are voters being punished with more red tape when there’s no actual proof that the “problem” with elections lies with the voter?
"It's true that without the participation of many, power will consolidate into the hands of the few," writes Rock the Vote executive director, Heather Smith at the Huffington Post yesterday. "The inverse is also true: When many participate, it threatens those in power."
Doug Chapin of the Pew Center on the States tells Wallsten that "Election policy debates like photo ID and same-day registration have become so fierce around the country because they are founded more on passionate belief than proven fact. One side is convinced fraud is rampant; the other believes that disenfranchisement is widespread,” he says.
Precious time and resources are being wasted over partisan-slanted perceptions of what is wrong with the administration of elections. The real offense is that only 71 percent of eligible citizens are actually registered to vote, and therefore able to cast a ballot. Adding more restrictions, or further limiting access to the franchise by enacting these partisan-driven policies only hurts democracy.
"Every four years when our country is focused on a Presidential election, there are obligatory stories written expressing outrage about flaws in our voting system," Smith writes. "Why aren't we automatically registered? Why is it so hard to register and why can't we use new technologies to make it easier? Why are certain groups of people being intimidated at the polls? Who is really cheating? What in the world is a hanging chad?"
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