I don’t know how many of you have seen this new Republican initiative to repress the student vote. I mean, if you haven’t, you should definitely check out this article, or this more comprehensive series of videos, because the whole plan is economically unsound and almost certainly unconstitutional.
Basically, if you haven’t heard, Republicans in North Carolina and Ohio are trying to punish students’ families and Universities for the privilege of allowing students to vote. In North Carolina, they’re trying to raise taxes for the parents of students that vote at their college, and in Ohio, they’re trying to force Universities to lower out-of-state students’ tuition to in-state rates if they provide their students with the resources to vote in the state of their scholarship. Meaning that Universities would make less money if their out-of-state students vote. Meaning that they will be far less motivated to help these students vote than they might have been otherwise.
Now, I am not any big supporter of disparate tuition rates at universities, or really anything about tuition at universities. I think universities are overpriced diploma-factories about to burst their little economic glory days into an oblivion that changes academia into something actually worthy of admiration again. Any damn day now. And I am waiting.
But that’s not what this article is about. This article is about the incredibly underhanded and sneaky methods that Republicans continue to use to prevent the people who don’t agree with them from voting. The Ohio bill is, first and foremost, unconstitutional. And, it specifically targets the student votes in a state that went blue in the last election (North Carolina went blue in 2008 for Obama’s first term, one of only two times that has ever happened). Ohio is a state that, without the youth vote, would likely have gone the other way. According to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, without the youth vote in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, those states would have been red states in the 2012 election, making Romney (shudder) our current President. I am shocked that this is the demographic the Republicans are targeting. Sneakily. In a single paragraph at the end of a budget amendment. Which reads like this:
“(E) The rules of the chancellor for determining student residency shall grant residency status to a student to whom a state institution of higher education issues a letter or utility bill for use as proof that the student is a qualified elector in this state.
Nothing in division (E) of this section shall be used to grant residency to a student for any purpose other than for state subsidy and tuition surcharge purposes.”
Translation: “Dear universities. If you help students vote, we call those students residents and take half your money. But they’re not really residents, it’s just a money thing. Love, Republicans.” That’s a pretty thinly disguised attempt to keep students from voting in Ohio, if you ask me.
And it’s not like this is the only time this kind of thing has happened. Active attempts to prevent non-Republican voters from making their voices heard were rampant in the 2012 election. In Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and West Virginia (note the proximity of this list to the one above) early voting was severely limited, presumably in response to the fact that it had been so successful in 2008 for African American and Latino voters–people who, shockingly, don’t really love the Republican party. New laws requiring specific ID’s would have made voting disproportionally difficult for college students, minorities, and the elderly according to this article, although some of these laws were luckily overturned. Check out this great article for a full list of all the restrictions that were added to the voting process in 2012. In case you were wondering, there were 21 new restrictions in 15 states. That’s kind of a lot. And let’s not forget to mention this guy, who believed that Republicans were purposely sabotaging the economy just to make Obama look bad before the election. Go ‘Murica!
Now, I’ve given a lot of examples here, and that’s because I care about evidence and credibility and all that fancy stuff. I want it to be clear that this is not a Republican hate-rant. This is a Republican concerned-and-angry rant. I am very, very concerned that there are people out there with the ability to disproportionately limit the voting power of citizens who are already disenfranchised. I am concerned that these people are in public office at all, since they clearly have some moral issues they need to work out. I am very angry that there are public officials who believe that it is more important to win the election than it is to get an accurate gauge of what the voters want. And who are even willing to admit that that is what they actually think.
This country is supposed to be a federal constitutional republic (not quite a democracy, I know, but “Constitutional Republic? I Don’t Think So” was not a catchy title). Our elected officials are supposed to represent us, and if the behavior above is any indication, they seem a lot more interested in representing their own interests. Which I’m not really cool with, you know?