Friday, July 18, 2014

Cleaver: College students' right to vote must be protected

In his latest EC from DC column, Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver writes about his new legislation protecting college students' right to vote.

Our right to vote is precious. That right is at the very core of the foundation of our country. And the right to vote must be protected. Now perhaps, as vigorously as ever, as our access seems to be under attack in many ways and on many fronts.

With this in mind, this week, I introduced the EASY (Equal Access to Support Youth) Voting Act. 

EASY is legislation that will allow a student to vote in a federal election using his or her current student photo identification. The bill will also make it a federal crime for anyone to purposely discourage a student from voting by providing false or misleading information. 

Students make up an integral part of the American electorate. Yet, their voting rights are under attack across the country, as state legislatures have, and continue to, propose laws targeting college students. 

  • 11% of Americans don't have current government issued photo identification
  • 18% of Americans between the ages of 18-24 years old don't have current government issued photo IDs
  • The 26th Amendment expanded our electorate by lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years old
  • Young people should be encouraged to vote -- not misled, confused, or barred outright from voting
We often hear stories that are exaggerated or imagined altogether about voter fraud. They are meant to scare, but in fact, there is little evidence of the occurrence of voter fraud. And instead of protecting our electoral system, photo identification laws do far more harm than good because they disproportionately prevent one of our most vulnerable communities from voting -- students. 

Voting is a fundamental right, and we as representatives of the people, should encourage and embrace the participation of all eligible citizens. The integrity of our political process must be, above all, beyond reproach. Make no mistake, our nation's strength and spirit springs from our enduring commitment to a fair and accessible democratic process. 

At this time in our history, when voting rights have been restricted and constricted all across the country, I will continue to be an outspoken advocate to protect and promote participation in our political process.

I believe the EASY Voting Act is one way we can do this. 

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