In 2008, young people—particularly those of color—endured more voting restrictions than any other youth voting demographic that came before, yet black youth turnout hit its highest rate in history. And in 2010, at the notoriously low-turnout 2010 midterm elections, young black voters surpassed their white, Asian, and Latino counterparts.
But the swarm of controversial Voter ID legislation being pushed through legislatures in key swing states could jeopardize this expansion of democracy, and the rights that people of color and their allies have fought for since before the Jim Crow era.
“At best, it’s a cynical move by elected politicians to keep citizens from voting them out. At worst, it’s a desperate reaction to the demographic evolution that threatens to make a party without multiracial appeal into an historical artifact,” writes Heather McGhee, vice president of policy and outreach at Demos, who noted that these laws seem to be politically motivated.
It’s clear that jeopardizing the voting rights of an already underrepresented people is not a reasonable solution to a statistically insignificant problem.
Our elected officials should be receptive to legislation that makes it easier for young people of color to vote, not harder. For instance, ensuring that voters can register on Election Day—"same day registration"—would allow eligible voters to show up at their polling place, register to vote, and cast a ballot all in one visit. Perhaps not surprisingly, states with same day voter registration lead the nation in voter turnout.