Of Course Republicans Want to Suppress the Youth Vote

Student voters

High school students pass out sample ballots and literature outside Virginia’s Tabb High School on Election Day 2018. (Jonathon Gruenke / The Daily Press via AP)

This story is published as part of StudentNation’s “Vision 2020 Election: Stories From the Next Generation,” reports from young journalists that center the concerns of diverse young voters. In this project, working with Dr. Sherri Williams, we recruited young journalists from different backgrounds to develop story ideas and reporting about their peers’ concerns ahead of the most important election of our lives. We’ll continue publishing two stories each week over the course of the next month.
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Kiaira Jackson, a senior at Albany State University and the Georgia county’s newly elected, and youngest, NAACP president, was turned away at the polls in 2018.

Weeks before, she had organized voter registration drives on campus and throughout the community. But when she went to vote on November 6, Jackson, then a junior at one of the two ballot booths on Albany State University’s campus, was told that she wasn’t registered in Dougherty County. Though she had filled out registration forms on campus, the system said she was registered to vote in her hometown, 90 miles away.

“I didn’t understand how I was registered to vote in a county where I didn’t register to vote,” Jackson said. “How could the system at my precinct reflect information that I had never provided?”

Jackson looked to local resources for a solution. She was advised by her NAACP Youth & College Advisor to contact the Georgia NAACP State Office, where they cross-referenced voting records and eventually confirmed she was registered at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Albany.

But when she returned, she was denied a second time at the newly confirmed polling location. It took a call to the elections office and an election official appearing on Jackson’s behalf with supporting documents for her to finally cast her ballot.

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According to Jackson, she soon learned that other students were also being turned away for similar reasons. “I felt disheartened that I put in so much work to turn my student body out to vote—and had gotten mass participation—only for many to not be able to,” Jackson said. More than two dozen students at the historically Black Albany State University were turned away at the polls for the 2018 midterm election, according to the NAACP. Shortly after, the NAACP demanded that Georgia election officials investigate those patterns of voter suppression.

Nationwide, 2018 was a significant year for young voters, yielding a record-breaking turnout. The youth vote jumped 16 percent compared to the 2016 midterm election, and for the first time since 1982, rates surpassed 50 percent, according to the Brookings Institution. Mobilized to lead the resistance against issues like abortion and climate change, young adults ages 18 to 29 emerged as a central voting bloc.

Advocates say a blitz attack on youth votes followed shortly after, and suppression tactics emerged across the country, particularly in swing states. The jarring effects are no surprise, considering the majority of young voters lean left: The last two Democratic presidential candidates won the youth vote by 23 and 18 percentage points, according to Tuft University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.



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