Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

Eliminating Barriers to Voting: How Allowing College Students to Use Their Student IDs to Vote in Certain Southeastern States Can Help Make Voting Great in America

Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

Eliminating Barriers to Voting: How Allowing College Students to Use Their Student IDs to Vote in Certain Southeastern States Can Help Make Voting Great in America

Article excerpt

I.INTRODUCTION

College students are often encouraged to be leaders and engaged citizens in our democratic society. One important way that college students are engaged citizens in this country is by being involved in the electoral process. Chief Justice Earl Warren in Reynolds v. Sims stated that "[t]he right to vote freely for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government."1 It is common knowledge that "[c]ollege students are a critical-and very large-voting constituency who are often at the forefront of political activism."2 Presidential candidates traditionally debate on college and university campuses, and this is not by accident.3 In fact, nationally, voters under 30 years old "represent a big voting bloc. They cast more than 20 million votes in the 2012 presidential election, accounting for about 15[%] of the total."4 Moreover, their turnout in 2012 was approximately 57% in North Carolina, which was "among the highest in the country."5

The U.S. Supreme Court in its 1979 landmark decision Symm v. United States upheld the constitutional right of students to register and vote wherever they attend college.6 When considering whether to register to vote in their college community or in their hometowns, college students, by law, can register to vote in either location, but not in both locations.7 For many students, they "feel more connected and know more about the candidates and issues in their hometowns, so they want to register and vote there. Some students want to be registered at their school location to be able to vote on candidates and issues that affect their school."8 Therefore, any college student who considers their college community as their primary residence is permitted to vote where they attend college.9 Moreover, Harvard University's President Lawrence S. Bacow clearly informs his students that "[y]our first homework assignment . . . if you are eligible to vote, we expect you to register, to inform yourself of the candidates and issues, and to cast a ballot."10 Students at the Ivy League university are also encouraging their fellow peers that "[t]he most important thing is that you DO vote."11 In addition, "a bedrock principle is that states cannot make it more difficult for students than for others to vote (or ask them questions that they would not ask others who are similarly situated)."12

State voter identification ("ID") laws require voters to present an acceptable form of ID to vote at polling locations.13 Yet U.S. Supreme Court decisions, such as the monumental Crawford v. Marion County Election Board,14 have affirmed particular state-imposed voting requirements, including strict voter ID laws, which often have a negative impact upon college students and their ability to use their student IDs for voting purposes at the polls on Election Day in certain states.15 Therefore, despite the Symm decision and other constitutional protections,16 state voter ID laws in certain Southeastern states remain inequitable when applied to college students, including Tennessee's voter ID law.17 Some states in the Southeastern region have voter ID laws that make it easier for students to use their college student IDs to vote in their particular state. Other Southeastern states have voter ID laws that make it difficult or virtually impossible for college students to use their student IDs for voting purposes. Although some Southeastern states accept college student IDs as acceptable forms of identification on Election Day,18 certain other Southeastern states do not.19 In fact, certain state voter ID laws, such as Tennessee's, explicitly reject college student IDs from being used for voting purposes.20 In states such as Georgia, students attending public colleges can use their college IDs for voting purposes; however, students in Georgia attending private higher education institutions cannot use their college IDs to vote. …

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