Tuesday, September 23, 2008

student voting: a handy legal guide

[crossposted at Bitch, Ph.D.]

So I'm at work, trying to put together communications for GOTV and I am realizing that there is a huge gap in my knowledge re: the voting process for students. I know the rules for early voting, absentee voting and registering and what to do if you're challenged at the polls here in Illinois, but what about for students?

Everyone I've spoken to has drawn a blank when I try to develop a guidesheet for students voting in this election. The best I can come up with is, 'Uh, be familiar with the laws of the state you're going to school in or, uh, vote absentee.'

Not good enough. I had no idea there were so many barriers to student voting - and it's no wonder that previous elections have seen younger voter turnout remain so flat. We make it virtually impossible for them to vote!

Some states have flat out refused to recognize students' residency as valid (hello, Texas, Virginia and New York); some states don't recognize student IDs as valid identification, making it impossible for students to comply with HAVA (Help America Vote Act) guidelines; some states require drivers licence addresses to match voter registration card addresses, which unfairly burden students from another state; and then there are those state officials who claim that students voting where they go to school could endanger financial aid or scholarship awards.

So what are the rules? Where can student voters go for clean information?

Thank goodness I didn't have to do much legwork.

The Brennan Center has developed a web tool that provides a handy legal guide for students during this election year. They code states according to how student-voting friendly they are - green is friendly, red is not. (Just guess which states aren't friendly.) They give you what the regulations are and what maze of red tape you'll have to navigate to come out the other side. They also dispel all the myths WRT losing financial aid, imperiling parents' taxes and endangering tuition.

The guide does not say that students merely have to show up to vote, but helps prepare students for whatever bullshit their state throws in their way. Forewarned in forearmed.

So, professors and grad student instructors, or anyone who knows a college student voter who's fired up - do your students a solid and tell them about this guide so they can prepare themselves for what they need to do to vote without too much issue. They don't have a lot of time.

Updated: to add that Jack (from Jack & Jill Politics) has created a Voter Suppression Wiki. They have an action page that is pulling information together from voter suppression watchgroups, contact information to report irregularities, different campaigns and legal actions already in progress to halt voter suppression.

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