Senator Barack Obama won the Democratic Presidential nomination in part because of record high turnout from voters age 18-24. This often-ignored demographic changed the political landscape by taking an active interest in politics for the first time since 1972, and now seems poised to play kingmaker in the fall.
But with the Presidential election fast approaching this electoral advantage for Mr. Obama could be slipping away. The Democrats' stranglehold on the youth vote hasn't weakened because young people are enamored with the idea of a Vice President more proficient with a gun than Dick Cheney or because they enjoy the sexual innuendo of Senator McCain's plan to drill everything.
The reason why Mr. Obama should be worried, and why college students all over the country should be furious, is because of obstacles rising up to deny young people their right to vote. The most recent attempt to disenfranchise America's youth came during a voter registration drive at Virginia Tech.
The local registrar announced that students registering at college couldn't be claim as dependents and would put at risk scholarships and coverage under their parent's health or car insurance. The only problem with this decree is that it was false.
The Virginia state board of elections has since backed away from the blatant lies of its local branch, but still deters students from registering at their college residence. On their Web Site they state that voters must register at a "physical location where they intend to stay for an unlimited time." This language is in clear violation of the Supreme Court case Symms v. U.S (1979), which guaranteed students the right to vote from their college residence without having to announce their intentions of residency.
The implication of this statute, if it is allowed to stand, is that thousands of college students in Virginia could be scared off from voting, which will have severe implications for an important toss up state in the Presidential election. But this is not an isolated incident, as students have faced challenges in recent years from Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Ohio.
Students have had to deal with too few voting booths that led to hour long lines, the threat of lawsuits, and communities hostile to their participation.Something needs to be done about these obvious examples of disenfranchisement, and not just for the sake of fair elections.
It is hypocritical for us to advocate the ideals of democracy abroad, yet fail to live up to our own standards at home. If we actually want to practice what we preach we need to foster participation from all Americans, and part of that involves taking down the barriers before college students.
This means not only allowing them to register at their college, but also simplifying the absentee voting process so that it is less time consuming and more accessible. These steps would only begin to address the flaws in a voting system that still has no uniform standards, disenfranchises lower socioeconomic classes with low grade polling booths and not enough of them, and provides almost no accountability.
None of these problems are new, but hopefully one of the benefactors of this change election will be a voting system that actually welcomes the idea of voting.
Dave Lombardo is a senior political science major who thinks political debates would benefit from more sexual innuendos.