Opinion Brief

Is the GOP trying to stop college students from voting?

New Hampshire's new Republican speaker wants to discourage "foolish" liberal college students who just "vote their feelings" from casting ballots in his state — and he's not alone

The voting habits of college students are "foolish," New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien (R) recently told a gathering of Tea Party supporters. They vote liberal because "they don't have life experience and they just vote their feelings." A pair of bills in the GOP-controlled state legislature would prevent many of those students from voting in their college town, or at all, The Washington Post reports. And New Hampshire isn't alone. Many other states are also considering ways to make voting harder. Is this really fair?

The GOP's war on students is anti-democratic: It might seem merely "ridiculous" for "Republicans to try to stop those who 'vote their feelings'" from casting ballots, says Steve Benen in Washington Monthly. But this naked attempt to "stack the voting deck" in their favor is also a "dangerous" assault on democracy. "If the GOP is so panicky about losing elections, they should field better candidates and adopt a more sensible policy agenda," not plot to disenfranchise college students."When in doubt, disenfranchise"

This is about voter fraud, not disenfranchisement: The Washington Post report is heavily "skewed toward the Democratic complaint" about a GOP "power play," says Ken Shepherd in NewsBusters. Tellingly, it isn't until "the very end of the article" that we even hear the Republicans' reasonable rationale for their efforts: If laws aren't tightened, college students can easily try to vote in their home state and in the New Hampshire district where they attend school."WaPo worries Republicans 'seek[ing] more limits on voters'"

Targeting students is nothing new: The "arguments against student voting" have been around for decades, says Susan Milligan in U.S. News & World Report. And they're still bunk. If students spend at least three-quarters of the year living, often working, and even paying taxes in their college town, they deserve the right to vote there. And that "lack of life experience" complaint? Funny you don't hear it when the GOP wants to send 18-year-olds off to war."New Hampshire Republicans wrong to attack college student voting"

Who's next... older voters? The GOP is right that "college students tend to be liberal and not think about consequences," says Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post. But so what? That's better than conservative elderly voters, who have "no incentive to make any sacrifices or enact any reforms, well, ever." So "where are the campaigns that scream, 'Don't let old people vote! They're conservative!'""Before limiting college students' voting rights, stop old people!"

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