Voter Fraud, College Students, And 18-25 Year Olds

July 22nd, 2011 | Categories: Age

In efforts to combat voter fraud, a recent flurry of state legislation would make voting difficult for college students. Such legislation has been proposed and in many cases passed in various states such as New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and South Carolina. This issue has become a hotly debated topic in recent months. However, states like Indiana have had such legislation active for years (even despite legal action against it).

Although New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien’s proposed voter fraud legislation was vetoed on June 27, 2011, his earlier comments from January 11, 2011 are still being aired in the media on, for example, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and Rachel Maddow among other programs.

O’Brien patronizingly called college students “kids” and implied they were uneducated and irresponsible voters when he said that college students “don’t have life experience” and “just vote their feelings.” Communicating stereotypes of college students has become part of the rhetoric in support of voter fraud legislation.

Outrage has been expressed by those who wish to defend college student rights. This should also cause outrage on behalf of anyone in the 18-25 age group. If college education doesn’t provide enough knowledge and experience to make one an educated and responsible voter (by the way NOT a requirement for voting) then those without a college education are equally if not less worthy of the privilege of voting.

The voter-fraud legislation may or may not be a violation of the 26th amendment which states:

The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

But those in favor of this legislation are not doing themselves or their argument a favor by invoking anti-college student and ageist stereotypes to try to make their point. First, it makes the issue more likely to be one of voter age discrimination. Second,  the stereotype just isn’t accurate.   It was easy to find 30 people who could disprove the theory that young people are uneducated and irresponsible and just as easy to find dozens of other college student stereotypes that O’Brien’s.


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