Less than three months before the presidential election, college campuses across the country should be buzzing with efforts to go to the polls. But 2020 is not an ordinary election year. The coronavirus pandemic has forced many universities to close their campuses, and students are making increasing efforts to suppress voters.
Now, in addition to mastering distance learning, students are trying to figure out how to make their number of ballots this fall. Some will have to register to vote from their hometowns, while others will have to vote by mail.
“For many people, this is a new process. And it̵
Even without a global pandemic, voting as a student can be difficult. After student activists fought to reduce the voting age to 18 in 1971, almost half of all voters went to the polls in 1972, and then turnout steadily declined. Part of this decline could be attributed to students facing confusing voter personal data laws, residency requirements and a shortage of on-campus polling stations.
Student voting rose again after Trump’s victory – by nearly 40% of voters participating in the by-elections in 2018, compared to 19% in 2014, according to data from the National Survey on Training, Voting and Engagement. But that may change again this year.
A recent study by NextGen America found that more than half of voters under the age of 35 believe they do not have the resources or knowledge they need to vote in the mail in November. And the closure of the campus, mixed with active repression efforts, is creating the “perfect storm” to prevent students from voting, especially after many turn to voting by mail, according to Nancy Thomas, director of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education. Tufts University.
In Pennsylvania, a politically competitive swing state, Feynman said structural problems such as mail delays could deprive students of their rights. Students must apply to vote on a paper request form if they do not have a state driver’s license, which requires a printer. And there is the issue of delays in postal services.
“Due to USPS delays, students are concerned about not meeting deadlines,” Feynman said. “This means that two deadlines have been met, instead of one in which delays in the mail may prohibit them from voting.”
But Pennsylvania is not the only state with laws that can put student voting at risk. In New Hampshire, Republicans are passing a law that requires voters to have a state driver’s license if they intend to drive in the state, which many students do not. In Wisconsin, students are at high risk of being removed from voter lists.
Meanwhile, college students are particularly vulnerable to voting issues. In the 2020 primaries, the NPR recently found that more than 550,000 ballots were rejected, with experts finding that absentees and young voters in absentia were more likely to make the kinds of mistakes that led to ballots being rejected.
All of these issues could have a decisive impact on election results, especially since most college students rely on Democrats.
“We can’t assume that all students will support one party or candidate, but we’ve identified several states where the number of students has exceeded the chances of winning,” Thomas said, referring to student voters who rocked Wisconsin Elementary School in 2018. ” For students living away from home, they are represented by selected staff near the campus. It is in their interest to let them know that they are there and that their voices must be heard on political issues. “
Young voters have the power to influence performance in dozens of states across the country this year, especially those with competing competitions such as North Carolina and Florida, where there are a large proportion of younger voters who tend to have different choices than your old colleagues.
Organizations such as the Campus Vote Project have been running campus-based voting programs nationwide since 2014. Students, paid staff, and faculty run initiatives that typically involve organizing events and gathering outside of busy campus areas. Now they hope the online programs are enough to help students understand how to vote in November.
“We are trying to give students an understanding of how to vote and where to vote,” explained Raahila Ahmed, deputy director of the Campus Vote Project. “There were a number of states where things went awry with the postal vote last season. Our organization is trying to ensure that existing systems are successful and will no longer devalue marginalized communities. “
But between inconsistent voting laws and the attack on the USPS, Ahmed fears that the chaos of the primaries was just a glimpse into what could happen in November.
“My nightmare is what happened during the primary phase, where there were changes in the dates of the elections and the election rules and 24 hours after those elections,” Ahmed said. “Something like this can completely derail and demotivate voters at all levels. Not only students, this can affect any type of voter. “