Voter restrictions purely political move

By Matt Watson

Those wily Republicans are at it again. The GOP had a good two years, taking control of state governments across the nation, as well as the House of Representatives. They’ve also successfully hijacked the national mood, making working-class citizens believe that cutting taxes for the wealthy will somehow help them. I won’t lie—I’m actually impressed and a little jealous that progressives haven’t implemented this sort of marketing campaign.

Yet this time, the GOP has gone too far. In what is becoming a national trend, Republican governors and state legislators around the nation are restricting citizens’ right to vote. Most recently, in Florida—the battleground state with the most electoral votes by far—the governor reduced early voting to one week and eliminated voting on Sunday. College students will also have a harder time voting away from home. Even worse, those who register voters now face fines if they don’t comply with archaic procedures.

Five other battleground states where Republicans took control in 2010 have enacted similar laws. The Brennan Center at New York University estimates that these initiatives could make it more difficult for 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012. The voters who are most affected by these restrictions tend to be college students, minorities and the working poor. It’s not a huge surprise that these are all traditional Democrats.

Republicans claim these measures weed out voter fraud, yet fraud has consistently proven to be negligible in recent elections. This isn’t Chicago of the 1960s, where voters were encouraged to “vote early and often,” and deceased residents somehow found their way to the polls. GOP-dominated legislatures point to the now-defunct Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN), which conducted registration drives and in 2008 was accused of submitting more than 400,000 duplicate registration forms. However, the numbers of double applicants were similar to those collected from actual government registrations, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and were not actually submitted for approval.

No, it isn’t voter fraud that conservatives are concerned about. They’re worried that too many people who aren’t wealthy, older white men will vote, and they know they lose every other segment of the population. We should all be wary when the GOP’s major aim—as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cleverly summed up—is to make Barack Obama a one-term president. These voter restriction measures are certainly the sneaky way to go about it. Apparently, a key pillar of the Republican platform is that when you can’t win fairly, it’s okay to cheat a little.

One state senator in Florida said voting should be neither easy nor convenient, which is absolutely ridiculous. What should be happening is the complete opposite—more voters need to be registered and given opportunities to vote. Voter turnout has hovered around the lower to mid-50 percentile range since 1972, and it’s sad to see the fate of our nation in the hands of so few.

For students, this is an especially important issue. College students who leave their home state already have a hard time voting, and the process should be made as convenient as possible. This group needs to be heard now more than ever, with loan debt piling up and few career opportunities in sight after graduation. With today’s politicians proving themselves completely incapable of fixing even the simplest of the nation’s problems, it is our generation that will have to show leadership. Yet the GOP is so petrified of our vote, they’ve enacted the strictest voting regulations since Jim Crow.

There needs to be a far louder outcry against this injustice. Thankfully, Illinois remains as blue as Lake Michigan, and the students at Columbia will retain their right to vote. But it’s our peers in swing states that should be worried about politics stifling their rights. It’s funny how the GOP can complain nonstop about government stepping on their freedoms, yet they again prove to be total hypocrites.

Accept the GOP’s challenge. They believe students, working-class citizens and minorities are too lazy to vote if it’s only offered in a small window of time. Prove them wrong. This is an incentive to show that everyone does have a voice and each and every vote does count. I would love to see the astonished face of the eventual Republican nominee on election night 2012 when exit polls show voter turnout at 60 percent.