Last Tuesday, Mainers went to the polls and successfully defended Same-Day Registration in their state. Earlier this year, the Maine legislature had repealed the decades-old practice based on baseless claims of rampant voter fraud — fraud that Charlie Webster, Chair of Maine’s Republican Party, and Charlie Summers, Maine’s Secretary of State, failed to prove, try as they did, after dramatically launching an investigation of 206 University of Maine students originally from out of state.
Young would-be voters are being picked on all over the country — from the photo ID laws that don’t allow student IDs (as opposed to concealed handgun licenses) to changing domicile requirements so that out-of-state students are prevented from voting — because students are “foolish” and “vote with their feelings.” Plus, now they are also poor, so they really shouldn’t vote.
Young people already register and vote at lower levels than nearly any other group. Fewer than a quarter of 18-29 year olds voted in the 2010 election. And even when youth voter turnout hit a historical high in 2008 of 51 percent, it was still well behind their elders by 11 to 19 percentage points.
Age has long been considered one of the strongest predictors of political participation. A recent study by three political scientists show, however, that contrary to conventional wisdom, lower rates of youth political participation is not because of lower levels of civic resources, social capital or political interest, but almost entirely because of the higher rate of mobility and “the electoral procedures that tie registration to residential location.” Our youth are not too stupid nor apathetic to figure out the complex and arbitrary system of voter registration in America; rather, the residency-based voter registration system itself makes highly mobile young Americans less likely to be registered at the current/correct address.