MEGHAN HAYMAN/THE CAMPUS
Author Tova Wang kicked off Allegheny College’s “Year of Voting Rights and Democratic Participation” themed bicentennial celebration Wednesday night speaking to over one-hundred audience members gathered in Ford Chapel.
“The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans’ Right to Vote” author started her lecture with one question: “How many people have already voted in an election before?”
About half of the crowd raised their hands. When asked if audience members plan to vote this upcoming term, about two-thirds of the audience members’ hands rose. With this, Wang informed the audience that students can register and vote through Allegheny College in order to promote youth voting throughout the College. Registrations will be held until Oct. 6.
Giving out statistics from Universal Voter Registration, fairvote.com, Wang told the audience that the Constitution of the United States does not state that citizens have the right to vote. It does, however, state that the citizens cannot be denied the right to vote based on race, gender, or economic standing.
With this, Wang includes that voting is even more difficult than it used to be. This is where most of Wang’s focus for “The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans’ Right to Vote” is concentrated.
An easier way for voters to register, according to Wang, is same-day registration. By allowing citizens to register the day of elections would increase participation by 47 percent in youth voters. However, this is only available in some states, such as North Dakota.
According to the Brennan Center, 13 states passed more restrictive voter ID laws and 10 passed laws making it harder for citizens to register to vote between 2011 and 2014 as well as eight states passed laws eliminating or shortening early voting.
Due to these changes, fewer citizens voted in the 2012 election, according to Wang. These numbers don’t include the 10.4 percent of the voting population was denied the right to vote due to felony disenfranchisement.
According to Wang, this is the action of excluding citizens eligible to vote from voting due to a criminal offense conviction. Actions such as parole or probation interfere with voter registration due to state law variations. When the citizens do not know if they can vote, they usually decide not to.
In Wang’s presentation, she included that “the biggest barrier appears to be the registration process. When registered, non-college youth vote almost as much as other age groups”. Wang backs up her statement by bringing to the audience’s attention voter ID dilemmas.
One of Wang’s concentrations revolves around the voter ID dilemmas. At Allegheny College, students can use their student IDs in order to vote. However, at other schools, this is not the case. Some establishments require a valid signature on file for the Department for Motor Vehicles, which means the citizen needs a valid driver’s license along with a current address.
Since young voters were on Wang’s mind that evening, she brought up the fact that college students living on and off campus would have an issue with this regulation. The students’ driver’s licenses would have their home addresses but not their college addresses.
Where, then, can students vote?
According to Wang, there are three options for college students. First, the students can travel countless miles back to their home-towns to vote. Second, the student can check with their institution whether or not it is acceptable to vote in the establishment’s district. Or third, the student decides the hassle is far too great and does not vote at all.
Wang stated that some institutions such as Drexel University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have used tactics in the past to scare students away from voting. Some students would get emails or text messages warning that if the student votes a certain direction, scholarship money would be taken away.
Students would also get notifications that Democrats would vote on the first day and Republicans would vote on the second, or vice versa. These tactics would intimidate the students before the election even began and cause them to decide against voting, according to Wang.
After her hour long speech at Ford Chapel, Wang finished her presentation citing the history and current actions concerning voting rights in the United States.
She offered the audience her websites, www.demos.org and www.votingrightstoday.org, and her email address, [email protected], for further questions on the topic.
Wang’s last question to the audience lingered in the air;
“Why aren’t students protesting the way they used to in the 60s?”