Inside the war on voting

May 13, 2012|By Stephen Markley, For RedEye

A Republican super PAC recently rolled out an ad accusing President Obama of being too "cool," and with that, the GOP completed its total transformation into a crotchety old man who keeps your football when it lands in his yard.

I've written about the headwinds facing our generation: We've been loaded with debt, shoved into the worst economy since the Great Depression, and told we're entitled brats even as both political parties make plans for us to pay for their tax cuts, entitlement programs, disastrous wars and environmental crises. Sweet deal, huh?

If we want to tackle any of these issues, we have to do more than Tweet our outrage and Occupy our discontent. We have to vote. However, one of the two major political parties has taken its youth hostility a step further, actively working to stop you from voting. Forget the "war on women." The real war is on Millennials.

Young people, wherever our quarrels may lie with Obama and the Democrats, increasingly tell pollsters we can't vote Republican. Perhaps they wouldn't use these words, but I will: It's become a homophobic, xenophobic, hyper-religious refuge for people who don't believe in science or—judging from things like Congressman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget—basic math. It's an entire political party hoarding jars of its own toenail clippings.

Rather than addressing issues young people tell pollsters they care about like LGBT rights, ending disastrous military adventures, tackling climate change, and supporting education, the GOP has decided on a different tactic.

In state after state, they are passing laws to discourage young people from voting.

Reported by Rolling Stone a year ago, most of the worst-case scenarios for voter suppression have now come to fruition: Under the guise of combating the non-existent threat of voter fraud, state legislatures are enacting laws aimed at disenfranchising Democratic-leaning constituencies, most prominently young people. Roughly 30 states have laws either passed or pending that would require a government-issued photo ID for voting because 18 percent of young people do not have such an ID (neither do 25 percent of African-Americans).

The next prohibition is banning out-of-state IDs because these are often what college students have in their wallets. In Florida, a new law requires voter registration forms to be turned in within 48 hours or individuals can face a $1,000 fine and even jail time, which has caused the non-partisan MTV initiative "Rock the Vote" to flee the state. An analysis by the New York Times found that new voter registration in Florida has ground to a halt. A civil-rights advocacy group called the Advancement Project said all this amounts to "the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century."

Or as New Hampshire state house speakerWilliam O'Brienput it, "Voting as a liberal, that's what kids do," as he tried to pass a bill last year that would ban college students from voting from their school addresses.

Whatever your political views, this should bother you. They can delay all they want, but eventually a young, educated, non-white electorate is going to put a Biblical hurt on this incarnation of the Republican Party. I'd prefer this election. It's time to get our football back.

Stephen Markley is a RedEye special contributor.

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