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Thursday, July 3, 2014

North Carolina is continuing its trend of anti-voter measures, many of which negatively impact students. Most recently, Wake County decided to remove an on-campus polling location, continuing the direct attacks on student voters.  

Last week, Wake County officials approved eight early voting locations for the upcoming election, but failed to include a site at North Carolina State University. N.C. State hosted an early voting site in 2012, when over 13,000 people voted at its Talley Student Union. Election officials cited lack of parking as a reason for its removal from the list. This early voting location would be walkable for the 35% of the 24,000 undergraduate students who live on campus and convenient for all other students, faculty, and staff who are on campus on a regular basis. The new early voting location will be 3.6 miles away from campus. Graduate student Stacy Roberts argued that in making their decision, Board officials overestimated the quality and ease of public transportation. Without an on-site location, students will have to find transportation and more time in their busy schedules to vote early for the general election in November.

This action adds to the ongoing assault elected officials have taken targeting student voters. The broadest change is the restrictive voter ID law passed in 2013, which also eliminated same day registration and shortened early voting hours. As part of the new restrictions, student IDs will no longer be considered a valid form of identification to show at the polls beginning in 2016. The state directly attacked student voters when lawmakers also proposed a “Dependency Clause” which would have deterred students from registering to vote with their school address by prohibiting their parents from claiming them as dependents for tax purposes if they registered at different address then their parents. The portion of the bill was eventually removed.

Local counties have instituted a number of detrimental voting measures, making it more difficult for students to vote even before the new requirements go into effect.

The clash between student voters and local election officials started last September, when poll workers in Pasquotank County questioned student voters from Elizabeth City State University, an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) on their voter IDs and residency statuses. The student community rallied back and organized a march to the polls, and activists at NC Vote Defenders joined in the fight to exercise their right to vote. Additionally, senior Montravias King filed to run for city council. Despite having voted in the past three elections prior to deciding to run, Pasquotank county officials initially denied his application, citing residency issues. The state board overruled the decision and King eventually won his seat on city council.

Conflict has continued this year, and students at Appalachian State University and N.C. State University will no longer have conveniently located on-campus early voting sites for November. In March the Watauga County Board of Elections unanimously voted to reaffirm their decision to remove an on–campus early voting site from Appalachian State University’s campus, a move highly criticized by student government leaders at Appalachian State who spoke to the board in favor of keeping the site.

On-campus early voting sites are much more convenient in terms of transportation and time management for students, and can also serve as strong rallying points for campuses in their GOTV efforts. Leading up to an election, on-campus early voting can increase excitement among the student body, and provide momentum behind civic engagement related activities such as candidate debates, issue forums, and registration drives. These locations serve students, and also many community members, faculty, and staff who live and work in the vicinity. They should be protected and promoted. Preventing them from being established on campuses only serves to limit access for student voters.

Posted by Sophie Laing, Intern 12:51 PM 0 comments

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Major barriers to student voting in Montgomery County, Virginia were removed this past Monday at a County Board of Supervisors meeting. The Board approved two important changes that will address years of election confusion and polling place congestion that have plagued voters, particularly students at Virginia Tech, since 2008. First, the Board approved measures to redraw election precincts, splitting Virginia Tech campus into two election precincts, F-3 and E-3, which will include only on-campus residents. Second, the Board created an on-campus polling location to service both election precincts, which will be located in the Commonwealth Ballroom in the Squires Student Center. These changes were unanimously approved by the Board, which received numerous emails and in-person statements in support of these changes that will make it significantly easier for student to cast their ballots in November.

Prior to these changes, students at Virginia Tech were split up between districts A, E, F, and G, with the dividing line between two of these precincts running through the middle of several dorms. This caused confusion for many students who were unclear about which precinct they were in, and therefore which polling place to attend. The University is too large to create one precinct, but the new E-3 and F-3 precinct lines are much clearer than before, only include on-campus residents, and do not run through any residential buildings. In addition, both precincts funnel to the same on-campus polling location at Squires Student Center.  The new and improved precincts and polling location will be in effect for this year’s general election.

The creation of an on-campus polling place was the result of ongoing student advocacy lead by the Student Government Association at Virginia Tech, and collaboration with local election officials. Problems for voters arose in 2008, when a record number of students turned out at the polls and had to travel 6.5 miles to St. Michael’s Lutheran church, which did not have adequate parking. After these less than ideal conditions on Election Day 2008, precinct E-3 was created to service many on-campus voters, with a polling location at the Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport. However, this location was also inadequate. High student turnout again in 2012 meant the airport quickly became crowded, and the polls had to stay open until 9:30 p.m. to accommodate voters still waiting in line. According to Brent Ashley, a former President of Virginia Tech’s Student Government Association, who spoke in favor of the plan at the Board meeting, a Virginia Tech Senior Design team created several simulations to better understand the effects of an on-campus polling location, and noted significant improvements in voter wait time. The team predicted that an on-campus polling location would result in a 20 minute decrease in mean voter time, a 1.1 hour decrease in maximum voter time, and an 18% increase in the number of voters processed in less than one hour. With busy and demanding schedules, these predicted decreases in wait time can make all the difference for student voters.

The process of looking for a new polling place took several years and was unsuccessful in 2013, partly because of the federal requirements for polling locations, which require that the space is large enough to accommodate voters and polling booths, and that there is nearby parking for those voters, including several handicap spaces. The University will reserve parking spaces for election officials on Election Day. The on-campus polling place is ideal for students, most of who live on-campus and will not have to rely on shuttles or find rides to the polling place.  

These changes come after years of hard work by students and elections officials, and together are a huge success for thousands of Virginia Tech students who will now be more easily able to vote. Having a polling place on campus not only means fewer barriers for students on Election Day, but also presents the opportunity for more enthusiastic GOTV efforts and campaigning prior to November elections. One attendee at the Board meeting expressed her opinion that it is the community’s civic responsibility to ensure that people can easily exercise their right to vote, so Monday night’s success was not only for Virginia Tech students, but for all residents in Montgomery County. Since 2008 Virginia Tech students have demonstrated their eagerness to vote and desire to fight for reform, and their hard work paid off in changes that can serve as an excellent example for other students around the country who may be dealing with similar issues.

Posted by Sophie Laing, Intern 12:30 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Over the past year, Illinois has worked to implement a variety of pro-voter reforms, including measures that make registering to vote and voting more accessible, especially for college voters. The state legislature passed a bill last week establishing a pilot program for Election Day Registration, extending voting hours, and requiring polling places on public college and university campuses to offer in-person absentee voting on Election Day, which offers students a convenient alternative to traveling to the polling place. Students will be able to cast paper ballots that are sealed like an early ballot which will then be verified to make sure voters did not attempt to cast a ballot in another permanent location. These reforms in addition to online voter registration and preregistration for 16- and 17-year olds expand opportunities for students to participate. With over 300 colleges and universities in Illinois, these measures will benefit thousands of young voters.

HB 105, which is expected to be signed by Governor Pat Quinn this week, will allow Illinois residents to register on Election Day at certain locations in 2014. Turnout rates for college-age students have historically been much lower than other age groups; however, once registered they turn out in high numbers. About 87% of students who registered in 2008 voted. In the 2010 elections, 16.7% of young citizens reported that they did not register to vote because they missed a registration deadline. Election Day registration will give college students time to register when they are more likely to be paying attention. Same day registration has been an effective tool to increase turnout for 18- to 29-year-olds as was seen in the 2012 election. According to Rebecca Reynolds, Executive Director of Chicago Votes, “Registration deadlines disproportionately disenfranchise mobile populations- traditionally, college students, single moms and low income communities of color.” Closer to Election Day, political debates, news coverage and discussions on campus heat up. With Election Day registration in place, students who get interested and involved later in the game will still be able to cast a ballot in November.

Online voter registration in Illinois will be available this summer, in time for midterm elections in the fall, and has been shown to be a preferred method of registration, especially among young voters. When online registration was implemented in California, 28% of people registering online were under the age of 26, compared to 12% of the overall registrations in those counties. In addition, turnout among those who registered online in California was eight percent higher than those who registered on paper, and among young voters the gap was 22%. Internet access is equally available to young people of different racial and ethnic groups, and therefore online registration has the potential to even the playing field among those who can vote. Online registration in Illinois will streamline the beginning of the voting process for college students.

HB 105 also extends voting hours, which will be advantageous for college students, 34.7% of whom cited they were too busy or had work conflicts as reasons for not voting in the 2010 elections. With busy class schedules and obligations for clubs, sports, and work, extended voting hours will allow college students to find the time to vote early if they cannot make it to the polls on Election Day.

Lastly, HB 105 reiterates the U.S. Supreme Court decision that says students have the right to register and vote in their college community if they meet the same requirements as everyone else. An amendment to the bill mandates that the online voter registration form state that college students have the option of registering at their home or college address.  It also calls for the creation of Election Day polling places on all college campuses- combatting the transportation barrier that is often a barrier to student voters.

One of the main barriers to getting students to vote is a lack of information about the process of registering and voting, not a lack of interest. These new measures implemented in Illinois will create more opportunities for students to vote, to learn how, when, and where to vote, and avoid the barriers of traveling to an off-campus polling location and beating registration deadlines.  Illinois’ leaders are making great strides to enable more students to participate in our democracy.

Posted by Sophie Laing, Intern 10:12 AM 0 comments

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

This piece from the Cornell Daily Sun's Jake Forken easily grabs our story of the day nod. Great tie-ins to the current state of race in the US and excellent use of research proving that voter ID laws discriminate.

Voter ID Laws Institutionalize Discrimination

By Jake Forken

On the same day Donald Sterling was banned for life from the National Basketball Association for expressing vehemently racist views, a more significant civil rights issue progressed. While the banishment of Sterling from the League is undoubtedly a vital and applaudable step in advancing civil rights, the striking down of proposed voter ID laws by a federal judge in Wisconsin will have a more a substantive impact on reducing racial inequality. The law, drafted by the state’s Republican legislators, would have placed a heavier burden on voters, requiring state-approved photo-identification at the polls. Over the past three years, 30 other states have debated proposed voting restriction legislation.

Voter ID laws perpetuate inequality by disproportionately affecting young voters, especially young minority voters, a group that tends to lean Democrat. According to a study co-authored by Cathy J. Cohen of the University of Chicago and Jon C. Rogowski of Washington University in St. Louis, 72.9 percent of black youth ages 18 to 29 were asked to show identification at the polls, compared to 60.8 percent of Latinos and only 50.8 percent of whites. Furthermore, 17.3 percent of black youth claim that the lack of an adequate voter ID kept them from voting; for Latinos and whites, these numbers stand at 8.1 percent and 4.7 percent respectively.

Clearly, the purpose of voter ID laws is to ensure the legitimacy of the democratic process by eliminating any fraudulent votes from being registered. The issue with this solution is that the problem is nonexistent.

According to the federal judge that heard the case in Wisconsin, “The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.”

The Department of Justice revealed in a 2006 Congressional hearing that between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters were indicted on voter fraud charges out of 197 million votes for federal candidates. Out of those forty cases, only 26 resulted in a conviction or a guilty plea, resulting in a .00000013 percent voter fraud rate during that time period.

Disenfranchising minority voters — in order to combat a negligible voter fraud rate — isn’t only terrible policy, it’s a façade that threatens the fundamental basis of democracy by limiting participation on the basis of race and class. This isn’t a melodramatic appeal to patriotic buzzwords. Members of the Republican Party have explicitly stated the purpose of voter ID laws is to systematically suppress votes in order to benefit their candidates.

After the 2012 election, former Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer stated, “The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates. It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us.”

In the spring of the same election year, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai boasted at a Republican gathering that the states new voter ID laws would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight estimated that from 2008 to 2012, the new voter ID laws in both Pennsylvania and Kansas reduced voter turnout of the registered population by 2.4 percent with a 1.2 percent swing to the Republican candidate. If you think these changes are insignificant, look at them in comparison to the voter fraud rate.

Surely, voter ID laws are not a Republican initiative to restore the sincerity of the voting process. It’s a method to legalize discrimination and deny minorities and lower class voters access to political establishments. Yes, Donald Sterling’s comments were ugly and there’s certainly no place for such blatant hatred in our society. However, we must unfortunately accept that no matter the progress made, there will likely always be bigots among us. What we do not have to accept is a barefaced attempt to institutionalize discrimination in order to advance a one-sided political agenda. The ruling in Wisconsin was one small step in the right direction.

Posted by Erica Evans 10:00 AM 0 comments

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Today's story of the day comes from the so-hot-right-now state of Wisconsin. The UW Badger Herald published this excellent piece on why online voter registration makes sense for America's Dairyland:

Online Voter Registration Would Expand Democracy in Wisconsin

By Aaron Loudenslager

The Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections held an informational hearing last week about online voter registration. While many states have passed legislation allowing their citizens to register to vote online, Wisconsin has yet to do so. Hopefully in the near future, the Wisconsin Legislature will enact such legislation, as it will make it easier for Wisconsin citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote.

Wisconsin is considered one of the best states in the nation when it comes to administering elections. According to a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts, Wisconsin ranked third in the nation for administering the 2012 presidential election, and just four years earlier, Wisconsin was ranked second in the nation administering the 2008 presidential election. Even so, Wisconsin has room for improvement. According to the Sheboygan Press, “the rate of non-voting due to disabilities or illness increased between 2012 and 2008 [and] wait times stretched from 7.9 minutes in 2008 to 8.2 minutes in 2012.” Additionally, Wisconsin lost points in the most recent report because Wisconsin does not allow its citizens to register to vote online.

In 2002, Arizona became the first state to permit its citizens to register to vote online. Now, 18 states allow their citizens to register to vote online. Thus, last week experts from around the country testified before the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections about online voter registration. Tammy Patrick, an election official in Maricopa County, Arizona, said, “It’s also important to note in the 12 years that we have had our system, we have had zero registration frauds through the online system.” In addition, Benjamin Ginsberg, a GOP attorney and lobbyist who co-chaired the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, told the committee, “Overall, an online system is simply going to be more accurate because there’s less room for error.”

It seems like many states and their election officials support online voter registration once the system is been implemented. Election officials in Wisconsin seem ready to embrace the trend of online voter registration. As Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, said, “Legislation that enables online voter registration would make a tremendous leap forward in the administration of elections in Wisconsin. The basic voter registration data will be more accurate if it is entered online by the voter. Online registration eliminates data entry errors resulting from difficult-to-decipher paper forms.”

Not only would an online voter registration system in Wisconsin help improve accuracy in voter registration data, but it would also save the state money. Wisconsin would save more than $1 million over the next decade if it instituted an online voter registration system.

The question remains: Why hasn’t the Legislature enacted legislation that makes it easier for citizens to register to vote and saves the state money? The answer is that the online voter registration legislation was introduced and then attached to a campaign finance bill by Republicans, leading to the bill’s fate in legislative limbo. In other words, Republicans in the statehouse seem to only want to permit online voter registration, which would further citizens’ fundamental right to vote, if they can also enact legislation that would weaken the right of citizens to vote. This legislation includes ending early weekend voting, weakening campaign finance disclosure requirements and voter identification laws.

Cicero once said, “Freedom is participation in power.” Republican efforts in the statehouse over the past few years demonstrate their infatuation with restricting people’s participation in the political process, whether it is through voter identification laws or laws ending early weekend voting. It is time for the Republicans in the state Legislature to embrace Cicero’s idea of freedom by ensuring that online voter registration becomes a reality in the next legislative session.

Aaron Loudenslager (loudenslager@wisc.edu) is a second-year law student.

Posted by Erica Evans 10:14 AM 0 comments

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Campus Vote Project is excited to announce that it has hired Michael Burns as its new National Director.  Mike takes over from CVP’s inaugural Coordinator Dan Vicuna, who was also a staff attorney with Fair Elections Legal Network. Mike will focus his full time and efforts on the work of CVP.

Campus Vote Project is a nonpartisan organization that works with partners and directly with administrators, faculty, and students on college and university campuses across the nation to institutionalize best practices for student electoral engagement. CVP and its partners recognize the educational and societal benefits that accrue when students are empowered to become active participants in our democracy.

Students face unique challenges to voting. They are often first-time voters unfamiliar with the process, move frequently, and may be new to the community where they chose to register. CVP works to overcome this information deficit and provide students the tools they need to register, vote, be a poll worker, and engage in our democratic process.      

In recent years we have seen these concerns compounded by rapid fire changes to electoral systems across the country, the loss of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, and a proliferation of new voter ID laws, many of which exclude student IDs. These upheavals in the voting landscape are extremely disorienting to our democracies newest voters, but CVP is prepared to tackle these new challenges.

Mike comes to CVP with over five years of experience working in electoral campaigns and after completing law school was CVP’s Virginia Coordinator in 2013.  If you would like to contact Mike and join CVP in its work to empower student voters you can reach him at (202) 331-0114 and mburns@campusvoteproject.org. 

Posted by Erica Evans 11:23 AM 0 comments

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Today's story of the day comes from Florida State University and does a great job highlighting the work students are doing to secure their voting rights in Florida!

Students fight for right to vote legislation

By: Ross Toback

Florida State students are bringing voter legislation to the top of the agenda on state and federal levels. Jerry Funt of the Progress Coalition at FSU is at the center of bringing voter rights to multiple groups with a focus on college students. With help from other organizations including FairVote and the Florida initiative for Electoral Reform (FLIER), Funt and other student leaders across Florida are doing everything they can to take down 2011’s House Bill 1355.

In that bill, rights to vote for Florida citizens is minimized by a smaller early voting window. This caused up to 250,000 people not being able to vote, according to Funt. Other legislation that minimizes the right to vote for Florida citizens is legislation on felon voting rights. Florida is one of only three states that does not give past felons the right to vote.

The main goal is to turn voting from an implicit right to an explicit right. Nowhere in the constitution is the right to vote specifically mentioned and by giving citizens an explicit right to vote, voters could not be denied by going to the polls. This would be regardless of unchanged information on their voter card or other complications that deny citizens the right to vote.

Funt and other student leaders are focused on bringing a voice to the student. In the recent 2014 municipal elections, Rick Scott and the state of Florida denied University of Florida students from voting at the student union. Funt believes the only way to get legislation reform is through more student involvement. 

“When we lobby at the capitol, the legislatures are constantly shocked to see students involved in any way,” Funt said. “Part of this is because students aren’t as much a part of the democratic process. They aren’t targeted. They’re not a concern of a lot of the democratic process. It’s a shame because the university system in Florida is the most powerful force of economic progress in the state of Florida. The university system brings in more money than any other force. Rick Scott and Florida’s government did a study that said for every dollar they put in education they get 20 dollars back. Students aren’t aware that we do have influence. A lot of representatives at the Capitol aren’t in touch with student views. The only way for them to talk to us is to show them that we’re worth talking to and the only way to do that is to show up on election and show them that students do have the right to vote.”

Funt explained students are having a lot issues changing their address information before election time hits and by the time they know to change it, it’s too late. This reduces the amount of student voters tremendously. Those who oppose making voting an explicit right and opening up voter rights for students and other underrepresented groups say that

“Some of the arguments that we’ve heard against [voter reform] were that they feel everyone has the right to vote but that those rights are implicit so what’s the purpose?” Funt said. “Our response is, an implicit right can only go so far compared to an explicit right.”

Another key issue is that the restrictions on voter legislation is to reduce voter fraud. Voter fraud is extremely scarce across the country and in the state of Florida though. In Federal elections between 2002 and 2005, 26 people were convicted of voter fraud, a tiny .00000013 percent of the vote, according to ABC.

Funt believes it’s only a matter of getting enough momentum and support from state congress for this issue to move forward.

“People have been pretty receptive,” Funt said. “The biggest problem we’ve been having is getting people to care about it enough. Most congressmen and elected officials that we’ve talked to understand what we’re doing, they care about it, but they tell us, ‘we don’t know if this is the kind of thing we can get done right now.’ That’s probably the biggest concern we have. We don’t want this to be something that’s put on the backburner because it’s something that needs to be handled now.”

Posted by Erica Evans 2:11 PM 0 comments

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Today's CVP story of the day comes from North Carolina's Elon University. It's a great piece on the nonsense logic behind the state's voter 
ID law.

Solving a problem that doesn’t exist: voter ID laws in NC

By The Pendulum Editorial Board

North Carolina recently passed laws that seek to not only tighten ID verification at the polls but also to shorten the voting period by one week and end same-day voting registration. Supporters of the new laws argue they will successfully curtail the prevalence of voter fraud in the state of North Carolina as well as save the state substantial amounts of money by shortening the voting period. These arguments are simply a weak attempt to mask the true purpose of these laws — to keep certain people from having access to the polls.

Many believe one person’s vote is very unlikely to have an effect on the outcome of an election. Though this may be true, providing a clear path to polls and keeping voting turnout percentages high means citizens will strive to be better informed about issues facing their states or countries. North Carolina’s new voter ID laws alienate college students, specifically those who were not born in the state and who are already wary about voting in the first place.

Only 17 percent of the class of 2017, hails from the state of North Carolina. With a majority of Elon students residing outside of the state, these new laws put a massive divide between Elon students and the polls. Elon is not the only school that has a majority of out of state students. Duke University, Wake Forest University and High Point University all draw an overwhelming majority of their student body from outside North Carolina.

College provides an intellectually stimulating platform from which students grow and mature as individuals. On their own for the first time, students form opinions and political views that are unique to them. As the newest eligible members of our democracy, the state and federal government should ensure college students have a clear and concise path to the polls.

A recent Elon University Poll showed that 65 percent of North Carolina residents supported the new law requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls. The law is most popular amongst Republicans, 96 percent of whom support the new security measures that are now in place. The law is least popular among Democrats, only 36 percent of whom support the voter ID requirements.

The Elon Poll, as well as several other data collection organizations, have found that voter fraud, which has been cited as one of the main reasons for the creation of the law, is very rare. In fact, many cases of voter fraud are often incorrectly classified as fraud. It seems as though only those who support the new law view voter fraud as a crippling threat to our democracy.

The 2014 election cycle will be the first time these new laws are enacted.  Furthermore, the 2016 election cycle will be the first time in North Carolina when college student’s university IDs will not be an acceptable form of identification.  These new measures will have a direct effect on not only limiting participation, but they will also intimidate first time or minority voters.

This issue is not one that is obvious to college students. Elon students have a knack for keeping themselves busy. College students, especially those who hail from outside North Carolina, should pay attention to these laws for they are directly limiting citizens’ rights to participate in elections.

Since the start of the 20th century, voter turnout in the United States has stayed relatively stagnant. According to the Bipartisan Research Center, the average percentage of eligible voter turnout in the U.S. has hovered between 48 and 57 percent since 1900. With women winning the right to vote in 1920, one would think voter turnout would increase as we move further into the century, but this is not the case.

Having a more informed and engaged electorate is not only good for the government, but it is also good for the state of North Carolina. The U.S. was founded on the belief that government officials would be elected by the people and serve the people. Each state should be striving to increase voter turn out, not restrict and limit it.

North Carolina’s new voter ID laws are in direct conflict with that constitutional right. Voting is a right that all citizens of the United States should be able to participate in regardless of race, sex or economic background. Government officials in North Carolina should reverse these new restrictions so all people may participate in our constitutional right to vote.

Members of the Editorial Board are Nick Foley, Jonathan Black, Katy Canada, Greg Honan and Lauren Phillips. 

Posted by Erica Evans 1:44 PM 0 comments

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Today's story of the day comes from Miami University, which just happens to be the alma mater of Kristen Muthig, our Communications and Policy Manager! She has reason to be proud given this great piece on "Freedom Summer".

‘Hot summer’ survivors revisit voting movement

By James Steinbauer
  
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of “Freedom Summer” in 1964, the meeting of more than 800 students on Miami University’s Western Campus to prepare for African-American voter registration in the South, the Miami University Lecture Series welcomed Mary Frances Berry, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Juan Williams. The three key players of the Civil Rights Movement spoke Monday night at Hall Auditorium about “Freedom Summer: the Voting Rights Act and the Political Realities of 2014.”
  
After an introduction by lecture series committee member Fatimata Ndiaye, the three speakers held a discussion in front of a packed auditorium in which they connected Miami’s Freedom Summer, also known as the “hot summer of 1964,” to the issues of the 60s to present day civil rights actualities. All three speakers struggled during the early years of the Civil Rights Movement, but have persevered and become leaders in their specific fields.
  
Currently a professor of American Social Thought at the University of Pennsylvania, Berry was the first black woman to head a major research university, was appointed Assistant Secretary of Education by President Jimmy Carter and became commissioner and vice chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights in 1980.
  
A reporter and journalist, Hunter-Gault graduated from the University of Georgia in 1963 and has been the recipient of many prestigious awards working for publications such as New Yorker Magazine, The New York Times, CNN and National Public Radio (NPR).
  
Juan Williams, a journalist and political analyst for Fox News, writes for several newspapers including The Washington Post and The New York Times and is the author of Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965.
  
“What you should know about each of our guests is that they were all involved in the civil rights struggle in one way or another,” lecture moderator Ronald Scott said. “Whether as participants or those who were shaping policy or as journalists that covered the events. They were intricately involved in the movement for a number of years and their contributions can not be acknowledged enough.”
  
While all three speakers held an influential roll in the Civil Rights Movement their opinions on what, if anything, led to justice for African-Americans rarely matched up.
  
“I thought the variety of opinions was fantastic,” said graduate student Hillary Kovacs. “I felt like I learned a lot of new things.”
  
Williams stressed the overwhelming power of the Voting Rights Act as a key player for the Civil Rights Movement; however, for Berry and Hunter-Gault, the right to vote alone will not give equality. Hunter-Gault specifically underlined the mobilization of the people and the obligation to hold their leaders accountable as what leads to justice.
  
“I loved how they stressed that students in society today should participate in talking to politicians and have an active roll in their society,” Lecture Series Committee member Ashley VanBuskirk said. “They connected Freedom Summer to today as an example of students becoming more active in their community.”

Posted by Erica Evans 11:16 AM 0 comments

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

We’re very happy to report that Campus Vote Project’s Student Voting Summit was a success with insightful and exciting discussions about how to engage students and young people. Our panelists included a range of experts, advocates and organizers. We hope their unique experiences and ideas for what has worked to engage young people will inspire others to do work at their colleges and keep this movement going.

CVP Coordinator Dan Vicuna opened the summit by describing the various barriers to voting that disproportionately affect college students. He also summarized the state legislative attacks students are facing and some of the pro-voter reforms in other states that will help more young people participate in our democracy.

CIRCLE’s Abby Kiesa used her group’s extensive research on students and democratic engagement to flesh out and present the challenges to student voters and those who try to reach them. Turnout and engagement for young people has been historically low, but research has shown that can be remedied by engaging students in the process and providing young people with information about deadlines and available voting options. Kiesa’s presentation concluded with the fact that innovation and collaboration between stakeholders are the keys to breaking the pattern of poor engagement and low turnout from young people. That idea of working together to motivate students resonated throughout the day.

The importance of collaboration between students, student government, campus administrators and even boards of trustees was another theme that all three panels and other speakers addressed. Speaking about her experience at the national level, Former Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education Martha Kanter noted that all these different groups need to work together to build a civic environment on college campuses. Panelists Sammie Dow, from the NAACP Youth and College Division and Christina Sanders, from the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund stressed using student government, heads of the academic departments and other organizations to make progress on campuses. Many of the national groups represented on the panels noted they have resources and local chapters to help make those connections and begin that work on campus. An important takeaway from these speakers was the idea that student leaders are not operating in a vacuum; help is out there to get things jump started.

Keynote speaker U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) gave a passionate address to summit attendees.  In addition to inspiring students, Rep. Schakowsky has been their advocate in Congress. She introduced the bipartisan Student VOTER Act, which would require colleges and universities that receive federal dollars to offer voter registration on campus.  This year, her bill was included in the broader Voter Empowerment Act, a comprehensive election reform bill, introduced by Rep. John Lewis and co-sponsored by Rep. Schakowsky. In her speech, she called on students to make this summer Freedom Summer Part 2 and start a movement to register young voters. 2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer, when students traveled to Mississippi to help African Americans register to vote. Rep. Schakowsky urged Summit attendees to step up and take charge of this movement.  Though national advocates, like Rep. Schakowsky, are working for legislative change it is still up to students to make waves at the local level.

Leaders from North Carolina, Texas, Washington and Illinois offered creative examples of how their organizations and students in their states have motivated others to register and vote. Students in North Carolina and Texas have come under direct attack from lawmakers, and students have lead the charge to bring attention to these issues, fight back, and make sure young people understand what these attacks mean for them.

As Martha Kanter noted at the beginning of the day, it is important to communicate with students often and with a variety of tools. Every panelist provided examples of how they do that, from using social media to Washington Bus’ VoteBot. We hope students and leaders took new and creative ideas away with them after the event and we are excited to see how they put those ideas to use this coming year.

Posted by Kristen Muthig 1:39 PM 0 comments