By Charles Hallman
According to Rock the Vote, a national young people’s voter registration advocacy group, 11,500 young people turn 18 every day in this country. These individuals help make up the “Millennial Generation” — young voters under the age of 30.
“This generation…make up nearly a quarter of the voters” in this year’s elections, says Rock the Vote President Heather Smith. “Today, one in four voters are under the age of 30, and they will continue to grow in numbers. They are the largest generation in the history of our country. They also are the most diverse generation in our country’s history; increasing numbers of African American youth, and particularly Latino youth…[are] turning 18 each month.
“We actually have seen young voter turnout on the rise” from 36 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2008, says Smith. This shows that the Millennial Generation wants to be involved in the political process, she notes. “We should be celebrating and encouraging participation among our newest and youngest voters, and not making it harder for them to show up [and vote].”
Smith and Brenner Center for Justice Democracy Program Counsel Lee Rowland spoke last week to reporters, including the MSR, during a one-hour media teleconference on the challenges young voters, especially college students, will face at the polls this year.
Rowland notes that new restrictive voting laws in at least 30 states are disproportionately impacting Blacks, seniors, and other people of color “and single out student voters.” Three states (Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas) “expressively exclude student IDs as an acceptable form of identification for voting” and according to her, over 17 percent of students in Texas are Blacks. “This is a real racial component,” believes Rowland.
She points out that 24 such restrictive laws have been passed in various states that impact students, making it hard for students to establish residency if they use their school address, or limited or eliminated early voting and same-day registration. As a result, “There are at least five million voters that will find it harder to vote,” says Rowland. “Students have a constitutional right to register [and] vote at a place they consider home.”
Both the Brennan Center and Rock the Vote “are holding everything we can before this election to make sure that students understand their rights [and] that they know these changes have occurred,” she says, adding that young people should have “an informed choice” before they vote.
Rock the Vote was founded 21 years ago and has registered more than five million young people as voters, including a record 2.2 million in 2008. Smith adds that their goal is to register 1.5 million young voters for this fall’s elections and began a new campaign August 28 to better educate young voters “everywhere they go,” using social media, traditional media (newspaper, radio and television), volunteers and “on-the-ground efforts,” she notes.
“Unfortunately while we would love to be focusing exclusively on bringing in new people…and continuing to engage the five-million-plus voters that we brought in the past few years, a lot of our efforts has been redirected to address these voting rights issues,” admits Smith.
A Minnesota Secretary of State spokeswoman told the MSR last week that students still can register to vote on Election Day. “There have been no changes,” she reaffirmed.
The following information is from the Secretary of State’s web site, www.mnvotes.org.
You can only vote from your address
Your address means the place you consider your home. For college students this can be your campus residence, your parents’ address, or some other address you consider your home. You can only vote from one address.
Once you’ve decided which address is your residence, you can register to vote. You can go to the Secretary of State office or download a voter registration application at www.mnvotes.org.
You can register and vote on Election Day
If you can provide proof of residence, you can register and vote on Election Day. For students, proofs of residence can include:
• Student photo ID.
• A valid Minnesota’s driver’s license, Minnesota ID card or permit with your current address.
• If your state ID has an old address, you can use it or your school ID in combination with another document with your current address, including a student fee statement, a utility bill or a rent statement from your landlord that itemizes utilities.
• A voter registered in the same precinct as you who can confirm your address with a signed oath.
Absentee ballots available
If you are going to be somewhere other than your residence, out of the country or studying abroad on Election Day, absentee ballots also are available. Applications and instructions are available at www.mnvotes.org. For information and resources related to overseas voting, go to https://minnesota.overseasvotefoundation.org.
Rowland and Smith want all young people under age 30 to have all the information they need to cast a ballot on November 6.
“Everything is on the table in this election,” says Rowland.
“It’s ultimately matters who’s in power and making decisions about our country and in our communities,” concludes Smith.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.