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  • Campus Vote Project

How Can the Kids Be Alright When Their Voting Rights Are Suppressed?

With at least 17 states tightening voting laws, young people who try to cast ballots could face more challenges in the future.


In 1840, at age 21, Frederick Bailey — newly emancipated following his successful escape from slavery on a Maryland plantation — paid a $1.50 poll tax and exercised his right to vote in Massachusetts, for the first time ever, as Frederick Douglass. Douglass committed what some today would call voter fraud (he was a fugitive, after all…), but as David Blight, author of the biography “Frederick Douglass: Prophet Of Freedom,” (Simon & Schuster, 2018) emphasized on NPR’s “Throughline” podcast, “He will vote the rest of his life, whether he’s in Massachusetts, New York or Washington, D.C., which tells us something about what he thought about that particular right and power.”

The youth’s right to vote reached a milestone this past July 1, with the 50th anniversary of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18. The irony is that as the nation recognizes this expansion, and a new crop of young voters emerge to register and cast ballots, many states across the country are passing an array of new restrictive voting laws. As of July 2, U.S. News counted 17 total states that have made voting more difficult in some capacity, including Georgia (placing limitations on absentee ballots), Arizona (trashing ballots cast in the wrong precinct), Florida (making it ardous to prove intentional racism) and Iowa (restricting early voting).

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