If you are reading this, you are liberal and foolish because you are a college student. Granted, if you are reading this you probably actually are liberal, but you definitely aren’t foolish, and neither of those traits apply to college students as a whole — unless your name is William O’Brien. And unlike O’Brien, you probably aren’t trying to take away the right to vote from college students.
The Most Ridiculously Unconstitutional Attempt award for March was won by the New Hampshire Republican Party for its attempt to ban college students from elections. The state’s Speaker of the House, William O’Brien, also takes the title of Most in Need of a Mental Filter with his astonishing comment that students are “foolish” and “vote their feelings” because they are “liberal,” which was of course caught on tape and widely circulated on YouTube. His general position is that students in New Hampshire flood the polls and skew the results with their “plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce.” He would rather that college students vote according to their parents’ residency status.
College students aren’t desirable voters, despite all attempts to mobilize them. Even in our liberal Ann Arbor, elections are timed to exclude college voters. While ostensibly moving the election to October so students could vote, the city moved the primaries to the summer — and in a one-party city, that’s all that matters. Now, I’m still registered to vote where I graduated high school, but to me this seems a little screwed up. If it weren’t for these big universities with thousands of students, cities like Ann Arbor would be nothing but a blip on the radar. But apparently politicians don’t see it that way, and they care more about pushing their interests through than factoring in the thousands of students who live there September through May.
Thankfully, O’Brien’s bill has been killed, but New Hampshire’s GOP leadership ominously promises that the issue will continue to be a priority. There are so many things wrong with this it’s impossible to know where to start. For one, students generally live in their college town for at least eight months out of the year, which is plenty long enough for them to be more concerned about what happens there than in their hometowns. And calling some of the best-educated people in the county “foolish” demonstrates something about O’Brien’s IQ. Yes, students are inexperienced, but so are housewives who have never left their own town — and we still let them vote. Just because you don’t like how a person votes doesn’t mean you can take away their vote. Maybe instead of attacking students, the GOP should try actually listening to the concerns of students and, oh I don’t know, try to attract that demographic.
Yes, O’Brien gives reasons that he supposedly believes to be true as grounds for barring college students from voting. But truthfully, it’s just a poorly veiled attempt to eliminate the votes of a demographic that doesn’t traditionally support the GOP. For that matter, maybe he should advocate for repealing women’s suffrage because women also tend to support the Democrats. Somehow I don’t think that one would make it through the legislature.
But for me, perhaps the most ridiculous part of this cluster of a bill is that college students don’t vote enough for this to be a real problem. They’re constantly the least mobilized, least active age group in the nation. In the 2010 midterm election, only 19 percent of the under age 30 demographic turned out to vote in New Hampshire, according to CIRCLE. College voters are hardly tipping the scale. If any group is a threat, it’s the retired set. But wait, retirees usually vote conservative.
This plan seems to be nothing but a targeted attempt to exclude supporters of another party from voting in elections. And the last time I checked, that’s illegal and seriously frowned upon. We live in a democracy where, for better or worse, all citizens get to vote. If O’Brien doesn’t like that then maybe he shouldn’t be allowed to make laws. I, for one, hope that in the next election New Hampshire students turn out en masse to “foolishly” elect anyone who isn’t a Republican.
Erika Mayer is an LSA junior.