A series of laws and proposals popping up across the country this year to strengthen voter identification requirements is part of an effort to discourage voting by students, who turned out in large numbers for Barack Obama in 2008, the head of Rock the Vote told a conference of young liberals on Thursday.
“Under the radar, there are a set of people trying to make it harder for students to vote,” said Rock the Vote president Heather Smith at the Campus Progress National Conference, just one day after Rhode Island announced a new voter identification law requiring photo IDs.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Rhode Island became the seventh state to have new or strengthened voter identification policies signed into law this year; several dozen more are considering or have considered similar proposals.
Proponents of the voter ID laws say they help prevent voter fraud.
College Republican National Committee spokesman Rob Lockwood said that requiring a government-issued ID does not hinder the right to vote.
“Requiring a valid government-issued ID to enter a ballot box protects the integrity of our democracy,” Lockwood said. “Valid forms of government identification are required to get onto an airplane, into an R-rated movie or into a bar, so why not into a ballot box?”
Smith of Rock the Vote disagreed:
“In a democracy, where the right to vote should absolutely be protected, we should be working to make it easier, not harder, to cast a ballot,” Smith said.