The Challenges College Students Face To Vote

The democratic principles of our country assume that everyone should be allowed equal representation, yet that is clearly not a reality, as the Electoral College and other measures to fix elections have made it nearly impossible for the popular vote to prevail. In an increasingly polarized political climate, several states are adding even more restrictive measures to make election outcomes favorable for Republicans. The youth vote in particular is being targeted, as college students realize their potential impact and become increasingly political. Their turnout in the 2018 midterms was more than double the rate of turnout in the 2014 midterms. Issues like the Trump presidency and climate change have caused a surge in student voters who care deeply about the issues being debated nationally.  

Republican legislators know that college students primarily lean liberal and have found that restricting the student vote can prevent Democratic candidates from winning offices. Barriers to student voting are most prominent in swing states where Republican control is eroding. They include limiting early-voting sites on college campuses, increasing restrictions on voter ID, and making it difficult for high school students to register to vote. These measures are promoted by supporters as voter fraud prevention, but there is very little evidence of voter fraud. Texas, the state with the lowest voter turnout, has particularly difficult obstacles for young people to overcome in order to vote. A Texas law requires voter registration forms to be distributed to high schoolers, but the requirement is ignored by most schools. Additionally, while most states allow students to pre-register at age 16, Texas teens aren’t allowed to register until two months before they turn 18. Texas has one of the most strict voter ID laws, and there is a clear correlation between these barriers and low voter turnout.  

The fact that Republicans are working so hard to limit student voter turnout proves how much influence young people have in America. Some students are pushing back at these barriers. At UT Austin, voter turnout has greatly increased due to a group of students who have rallied against voting restrictions and enlisted campus groups in voting and registration campaigns. Student turnout has the potential to impact the outcome of the 2020 election and is a force so strong that Republicans are clearly afraid. Voting is an essential right, and students should not allow it to be taken from them.