The next voting rights battle could be on a campus near you

College students could soon find themselves on the front lines of a broader fight over who can vote and how

campus voter registration booth
(Image credit: Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

When Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz defeated former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly in early April to flip Wisconsin's highest judicial body to its first liberal majority in a decade in a half, her path to victory wound conspicuously through the state's prized system of college campuses. Protasiewicz's double-digit margin was "unlike anything that's ever been seen in a spring election in terms of turnout on college campuses," campus voting access organizer Teddy Landis told Wisconsin Public Radio. Data provided to The Washington Post by Landis' "Project 72 WI" voting outreach group showed voting rates in University of Wisconsin campus precincts at levels "near November's midterms," with Democrats in particular "able to increase their vote share from the 2022 gubernatorial race."

While the much-sought-after "youth" bloc has traditionally been a fickle one to motivate into the nearest voting booth, the Wisconsin Supreme Court race showed fairly decisively that, when motivated and given the resources to act, younger voters can indeed have a decisive impact on elections. Unsurprisingly, then, that capacity for decisive impact has not gone unnoticed by Democrats hoping to lock in a key demographic, nor by Republicans worried by the bloc's broadly leftward lean. To that end, conservatives have increasingly begun looking to college campuses like those that powered Protasiewicz's victory as their next target in a broader partisan fight over voting access.

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Rafi Schwartz, The Week US

Rafi Schwartz has worked as a politics writer at The Week since 2022, where he covers elections, Congress and the White House. He was previously a contributing writer with Mic focusing largely on politics, a senior writer with Splinter News, a staff writer for Fusion's news lab, and the managing editor of Heeb Magazine, a Jewish life and culture publication. Rafi's work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GOOD and The Forward, among others.