Over the past couple weeks, few messages have dominated the media more than those connected to “election rigging.” If you believe everything you read and hear, one might believe that the presidential election is being rigged by dead people and non-citizens casting votes in a far-reaching voter fraud conspiracy. But the truth is, the election is actually being impacted by lawmakers who are employing underhanded tactics designed to suppress voter turnout among Black and Brown voters, particularly college students. In the absence of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, states are passing laws that disproportionately harm voters of color and students. After the number of Black and Brown millennial voters swelled in 2008 and 2012, lawmakers quietly began working to make it harder for us to get registered and vote. Students wanting to vote for the first time are likely unaware of these intentional attacks on their voting rights and the impact they will have on their ability to get to the polls this November. With the election just days away, college students, particularly students of color, should be aware of the hurdles the may have to face to vote.
For students, getting registered and staying on the voting rolls can be no small feat. States like Texas have made it incredibly hard for organizations to even register students. Even if students make it on the rolls, there can be pitfalls. In North Carolina, election officials purged mostly Black students from the voting rolls, claiming they were improperly registered because they used their campus address. The North Carolina state senate attempted to pass Bill 667, which would have prevented parents from claiming their children as dependents on their tax returns if their child registered to vote using their college address. The takeaway for college students? Even if you are registered, verify that you have in fact made it onto the voting rolls in your state so you can vote with no issues come Election Day.
Polling places are strategically being moved off campuses to make it harder for students to vote. In North Carolina, the State Board of Elections attempted to remove an early voting site from Appalachian State University, impacting 18,000 students. They also moved an early voting site from North Carolina’s State University. After students at Appalachian State University protested, alleging the move was politically motivated, a judge ruled the move unconstitutional. Similar tactics have been used across the country under the guise of budget cuts. In Wisconsin, emails revealed that city officials rejected an early voting site on the campus of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay because “students lean more toward the democrats.”
Strict Voter ID
Today more than 30 states have some type of voter ID law and in the last 10 years, states have rushed to adopt even stricter requirements under the guise of combating voter fraud. These ID requirements disproportionately harm students who are less likely to have government-issued IDs, or IDs that don’t reflect their school address. In Indiana, current election law says, “a student ID from a private institution may not be used for voting purposes.” Currently, seven states do not accept any form of student ID. Don’t have government-issued ID? You may be out of luck, particularly if you are an out-of-state student.
Long Wait Times
Earlier this year, Illinois election officials turned away hundreds of college students during the presidential primary. Officials refused to let them register to vote, claiming there was not enough time to register all of them using the state’s same-day registration process. Extensive wait times that often top an hour, like those seen already in Charlotte, disproportionately impact voters of color and people with tight schedules. Students often fall into this category with mandatory classes and hourly jobs.
Make no mistake, the creation of barriers to voting is no coincidence; they are calculated attempts to limit the voice of students, particularly students of color. While election officials would like to keep these attacks under the radar, we must expose how they are working to silence our voice. In this election, we must show them that their attacks will not stop us.
In order to prepare ourselves for this election, college students should verify their registration status, review ID requirements, check their polling locations and make a plan to get the polls. After November, we must hold accountable any official who wants to silence our voice.
November 8th is Election Day. Vote.
Kayla Tarrant is a University of Maryland student and intern at Advancement Project, a multiracial civil rights organization and anchor partner of #Webuiltthis, a digital campaign to engage Black millennials through and beyond the November election.