As it becomes increasingly likely that Barack Obama will be the Democratic candidate one of his largest group of supporters college and university students will be particularly targeted.
There's a toxic history of Republican officials trying to suppress the vote of college students across the US. In 2004 at predominantly black Texas A&M University the DA for predominantly white Waller County threatened university students with jail if they voted, falsely stating it would be illegal. After being threatened with a civil rights lawsuit he backed off.
But this year an early voting primary polling location next to the campus was removed leaving only one seven miles from campus with no bus service connecting them prompting this response from students:
Expect the same kind of determined organized response to these kind of shenanigans in the general with a much more aggressive response from Waller County officials with a long history of trying to suppress student voting.
It's not just Texas:
Before we Canadians get too smug, keep in mind similar bogus 'voter fraud' fairy tales are being promoted here to justify 'voter id' laws that will primarily disenfranchise lower income voters. This isn't an American tradition we should be eager to import.
That’s exactly what’s been going on in Statesboro, Georgia, where civil rights lawyers and fair elections advocates recently beat back a blatant attempt to prevent students from Georgia Southern University from voting in local elections.
Local officials were apparently alarmed by a voter registration campaign that had signed up about 2,000 new voters, most of them Georgia Southern students.
A group calling itself Statesboro Citizens for Good Government challenged the eligibility of more than 900 students. According to accounts by the National Campaign for Fair Elections, the students also faced threats and intimidation from police officers stationed both inside and outside polling places.
In a textbook case of voter suppression, a local elected official attempted to place an ad in a local paper falsely telling students that they would risk losing financial aid and could no longer be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns if they registered to vote in Statesboro — threats commonly used against students across the country.
Students who showed up at the polls were harassed by the police. One officer demanded that a student point out where she lived on a district map and tried to prevent her from casting a ballot. Another officer told a student that he would be in danger of receiving a ticket if he did not update his identification to reflect local residency.
The law is clear that students have a right to register and vote where they attend school. But that right is not always recognized in practice.
In Maine, a Republican legislator introduced a bill in the legislature that would have prevented students who live in university-owned housing from voting.
Another common method of suppressing student voting: making too few voting machines available, forcing students to wait on line for hours — far longer than in polling places used by non-student voters. (In Ohio in 2004, students from Kenyon College waited in line up to 12 hours to cast a ballot.)
Student vote suppression is especially common in presidential election years, when the stakes are highest. Election officials need to put policies in place now that ensure that young people are able to exercise their constitutional right to vote.