Youth 'Apathy' and Access to the Political Process

For Immediate Release

Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA)
Contact: 

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020;
or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Youth 'Apathy' and Access to the Political Process

WASHINGTON -  

JENNIFER ROSENBERG

WENDY WEISER


Rosenberg is a voting rights fellow and Weiser is the deputy director at the Brennan Center for Justice
at the New York University School of Law. The Brennan Center has
published a student voting rights guide that identifies laws and
regulations relevant for student voters in all states.

Rosenberg said today: "We've heard reports from across the nation about
students being given misinformation or even intimidating information
about their right to vote and potential negative repercussions if they
go ahead and exercise that right. This is a year in which students and
young people in general are engaged in record numbers in the political
process. This is a good thing for democracy. We want to make sure that
the system does not deter them from exercising this right. A good
voting experience will make these young people lifelong participants in
the democratic process."

Weiser added: "Studies show that a bad experience the first time a
person votes will make it less likely that they will participate in
future elections. Allowing young people and students to exercise their
right to vote without creating illegal or inconvenient obstacles in
their path is a matter of good public policy. Students are a subset of
a category of people who move for a few years. Most people who move for
a few years do not know what they will do in the future or whether they
will always stay in that area. Just because you do not have definite
plans to stay does not mean you are not a resident -- as has been
implied by some voter registration boards in some states. This is not
correct; this is one of the biggest pieces of misinformation out
there."

DAVID KING

King is a lecturer in public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of
Government at Harvard University. He said today: "Every college and
every university in the United States has a legal and civic obligation
to make voter registration materials widely available to students. If
they fail to do this, they are in clear violation of federal law and
should be sanctioned heavily. ... Students have a right to vote
wherever they are registered and there is no question that they are
residents in states where they go to school. A dormitory is a
residence."

Background: In a previous study titled Survey of College and University
Voter Registration and Mobilization Efforts, King wrote: "Universities
entrusted with the education of this country's youth may have a civic
obligation to prepare them for our participatory republic. However,
these institutions have more than a patriotic duty to provide their
students with the means to register to vote; it is federal law. The
Higher Education Act of 1998 requires that each college and university
receiving federal funds commit to a 'good faith effort to distribute a
mail voter registration form' to each student and to 'make such forms
widely available to students at the institution.'"

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MIKE CONNERY

Connery is the author of the book Youth to Power: How Today's Young Voters Are Building Tomorrow's Progressive Majority.
He said today: "Lower youth turnout is not about apathy, but about
access. Young voters, particularly students, face more barriers to
voting than almost any demographic outside of convicted felons. For a
society that prizes political engagement and democracy, we make it
exceedingly difficult for our youngest members to have their voices
heard."

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