Student Voters Prepare to Be Under Siege
Rebecca Kelliher Sep 7, 2021 Updated Sep 8, 2021
States will soon redraw voting districts from the 2020 Census that may dramatically shift elections and disproportionately impact students in some states. Experts warn that students, who often vote left, risk seeing their campuses split into two districts in right-leaning states. That’s one of a handful of ways to disenfranchise students, say some scholars.
“Having a polling place on campus can increase student voter turnout to create a culture of voting right when they’re going to classes,” said Dr. Elizabeth Bennion, a professor of political science at Indiana University. “But you’ll see in some states that the election board will fight against that polling place on campuses or try to divide the campus into multiple districts, which dilutes the power of the student vote and confuses the student.”
Cole Riley, a 21-year-old junior at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T), faced a campus divided into two districts at the historically Black university. Riley is a voting rights activist and helped lobby to redress NC A&T’s gerrymandered campus last year. Now on top of his studies and the pandemic, he’s gearing up for another round of redistricting and voter restrictions that could impact students, particularly at HBCUs.
“I’m expecting some nonsense,” said Riley, who has lobbied to get polling sites on campus as well. “I don’t know what we’ll be able to do other than to educate students on how to vote. The trouble we’ve also had is that we’re an HBCU, so we don’t have a blind trust in our government given our history as Black voters. So, we’ll just be honest with students and say, ‘Look this is messed up, the gerrymandering and closing our voting sites, it’s all messed up.’”
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