College students and disabled Americans have joined the list of groups that the GOP is trying to disenfranchise, and they’re fighting back.
Two different complaints have been filed recently to make sure that these groups are able to exercise their constitutional rights to vote.
College students in North Carolina are challenging the state’s voter ID law on the grounds that it violates the 26th amendment, which lowered the legal voting age from 21 to 18 and states that voting rights “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.”
The law passed last year shortened the early voting period and eliminated same-day registration, and will require voters to show a photo ID starting in 2016. However, student ID cards will not be accepted, and neither will out-of-state drivers’ licenses. This is also true in Texas where, of course, state handgun licenses will allow you to vote but state-university-issued IDs will not.
These provisions seem to directly target college students, who usually spend at least nine months out of the year in the state in which they are going to school. Given that they spend the majority of the year, and have to abide by the laws and pay taxes, in the state, it would make sense that they would get to have a say in those laws.
“There’s an unprecedented effort nationally by Republican-controlled legislatures to restrict the franchise in a way we haven’t seen in a long time,” said the Democratic election lawyer bringing forth the age-discrimination claim, Marc Elias. “Young voting in particular is part of that effort.”
Unfortunately, North Carolina isn’t the only state trying to keep it’s college students from voting.
Ohio politicians proposed a law that would require universities to grant in-state tuition status to those students who registered to vote in Ohio, which could cost universities millions.
Maine’s Secretary of State investigated 200 cases of supposed student voter fraud, finding none, but then sent a threatening letter telling them they would lose their right to vote in the state if they did not also obtain a Maine drivers’ license and register their car.
In the case of rights for the disabled, today, the Disability and Abuse Project (DAP) will file a Voting Rights Act complaint in Los Angeles County. The complaint argues that the “Los Angeles Superior Court has routinely and systematically engaged in activities that violate the civil rights of people with developmental disabilities.”
A DAP press release states that the courts are using “literacy tests, prohibited by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to determine whether adults should keep or be denied the right to vote.”
The complaint focuses on voting rights for adults who enter “limited conservatorships,” or legal arrangements where parents or guardians make decisions for those individuals who cannot manage their own financial or medical affairs.
According to the Associated Press, California has over 40,000 such cases, and a recent sample by DAP in Los Angeles County found that “90 percent of the people covered by limited conservatorships had been disqualified from voting.”
“Being told that you are less than other Americans and that you cannot exercise your right to vote has a detrimental and psychological effect on people with disabilities,” said Dr. Nora J. Baladerian, a clinical psychologist and Executive Director of DAP. “We trust that Attorney General Eric Holder will take action to protect the rights of these deserving American citizens.”
While the complaint is limited to Los Angeles County right now, the results could affect the entire country.
“The problem of voting rights violations of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is not isolated to Los Angeles,” said attorney Thomas F. Coleman, who filed the complaint for DAP. “Such civil rights violations are occurring elsewhere in California. Indeed, this is happening in many states throughout the nation.”
2010 census data shows that approximately 304 million people in the “civilian non-institutionalized population had a disability.” Historically, people with disabilities have been more likely to vote Democratic in presidential elections, including in 2008, when President Obama won 50 percent of the votes from this group, according to the final Harris Poll that year.
While most of these laws were supposedly passed in order to stamp out the voter fraud the GOP so adamantly thinks exists, even though it doesn’t, their true intent is obvious: Conservatives simply want to make it harder, if not impossible, for those groups who tend to lean Democratic to vote.