To be Young, Black and Voting
In 2008, young people—particularly those of color—endured more voting restrictions than any other youth voting demographic that came before, yet black youth turnout hit its highest rate in history. And in 2010, at the notoriously low-turnout 2010 midterm elections, young black voters surpassed their white, Asian, and Latino counterparts.
But the swarm of controversial Voter ID legislation being pushed through legislatures in key swing states could jeopardize this expansion of democracy, and the rights that people of color and their allies have fought for since before the Jim Crow era.
A new study from the Black Youth Project shows that young African-Americans are less likely to have photo IDs than their white peers and will be “disproportionately demobilized by the recent spate of photo ID laws." In direct terms, the study maintains that black youth voter turnout will suffer a significant dip in states where voter ID laws have already been passed.
Key election battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania already have Voter ID laws on the books, and such laws have the potential to disenfranchise millions nationwide in this election alone.
Opponents allege the new Voter ID legislation will curb in-person "voter fraud," though the changes of committing voter fraud are as common as lightening strikes and UFO sightings. In other words, a voter fraud epidemic simply doesn't exist.
“At best, it’s a cynical move by elected politicians to keep citizens from voting them out. At worst, it’s a desperate reaction to the demographic evolution that threatens to make a party without multiracial appeal into an historical artifact,” writes Heather McGhee, vice president of policy and outreach at Demos, who noted that these laws seem to be politically motivated.
It’s clear that jeopardizing the voting rights of an already underrepresented people is not a reasonable solution to a statistically insignificant problem.
Our elected officials should be receptive to legislation that makes it easier for young people of color to vote, not harder. For instance, ensuring that voters can register on Election Day—"same day registration"—would allow eligible voters to show up at their polling place, register to vote, and cast a ballot all in one visit. Perhaps not surprisingly, states with same day voter registration lead the nation in voter turnout.
Until this kind of registration reaches more states, campaigns like National Voter Registration Day are encouraging young people to get registered early and to invite their friends to do the same.
Hopefully such efforts can deter any drop in young black voter participation from disenfranchising Voter ID laws.
Bridget Todd is a reporter for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetMarie.
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