In his 2008 Chicago victory speech the President said his campaign “grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy.” Are those same young people and newly eligible voters still backing the President? Against Senator McCain, Obama won young voters by a margin of 25 points. A new Harvard Poll shows the President still holding a healthy margin among young voters. Among 18-24 year olds he’s up by 12 points and among 25-29 year olds, he’s up by 23 points. There’s no question that economic headwinds combined with a different dynamic in which the President is running as an incumbent rather than the new cool kid in town have cut into the President’s lead, but few doubt that he’ll carry young people. The real question is, will young voters who have struggled in the recession, have the enthusiasm to overcome onerous voter registration and identification laws.
Thanks to a partnership between the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Republican controlled legislatures, 15 states have passed voter identification laws that make it harder for students to vote. These laws are particularly onerous for out of state students who are unlikely to have valid identification for the state where they’re attending school. In order to vote locally, these students would have to recognize in advance that they’d need an id and then go through the additional trouble of actually getting that id. Lest you think these restrictions are well-intentioned attempts to combat voter fraud, the Republican speaker of New Hampshire’s State House actually directly stated that he supports voter id restrictions because kids vote as liberals. In his words: “The kids are coming out of the schools and basically doing what I did when I was a kid, which is voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do – they don’t have life experience, and they just vote their feelings.” The Pennsylvania Majority Leader also bragged that their state’s new voter id law “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
Sadly these voter suppression efforts have been far too successful. In Florida, new voter registrations are about half what they were at this time in 2008. Thanks to high levels of enthusiasm and incredible organizing, 2.2 million more young people voted in 2008 than in 2004. The President has clearly made young people a priority by focusing on maintaining low student loan interest rates, increasing Pell Grants, and undertaking health care reform. Rather than trying to make their own appeal to young people, the Republican Party has apparently invested themselves in simply keeping them from going to the polls. Voting as a liberal is in fact what many young adults do. Not because they’re foolish but because they are informed. They are well aware of what the Republicans are offering and they’re not interested.
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