Senate Targets Attempts to Suppress Youth Vote
By: Corey Goldstone
Young Americans’ love for technology is being used to disenfranchise them, as partisan operatives beam misleading information about polling places, voting hours and voter eligibility to tens of thousands of vulnerable voters by calls, text message, and email.
A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing reopened discussion about a bill–S.1994, Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011–(once sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama) that would empower the government to determine with more clarity what constitutes intentionally fraudulent communication and what they can do about it. Witnesses, including Common Cause Director of Elections Jenny Flanagan, reiterated the need to modernize the tools used by the Department of Justice to stop voter suppression by identifying and prosecuting offenders.
Until legislative action is taken, officials will have difficulty preventing trickery like the 2008 email sent the day before the election that told George Mason University students that the voting date had been moved. Similar attempts to spread lies have included text messages and large-scale robo-calls used to convince students at schools like Florida State University that they were not eligible to vote because of their immigration status, recent relocation, or a traffic violation.
A disturbing intimidation practice called ‘voter caging’ is particularly harmful to student voters. Partisan operatives have circulated forms to verify the residency of eligible Michigan and Ohio citizens. These documents have been used by challengers to turn voters away for not returning these forms on time.
Opponents of the S.1994 argue that the regulation of any political communication might lead to chilling free speech. But most Americans can’t have their voices heard by a Senate committee. These people include students, who want their cries for change to be heard. If they could speak at this hearing, they would contend that their speech, expressed by their vote, is worth protecting, not that of voter intimidators that seek to use deceptive “speech” to shrink the voting-base.
Watch the Senate hearing via CSPAN:
Learn more about voting rights at Project Vote: http://projectvote.org/
Corey Goldstone is a Syracuse Orangeman, braving the harsh winters to study American Political Science with a Concentration in Public Policy and the Legal System. He has volunteered for a local Obama reelection movement, interned for the Federal Affairs office of CSX, and worked for New York State constituents at Senator Charles Schumer’s CNY Office. His interest is in exposing the roadblocks to democracy that prevent everyday citizens from accessing electoral politics.