Jul 052011
 
Authors: Nic Turiciano

We’ve come a long way since the literacy tests at the polls, but many state governments are getting excited about suppressing the vote all over again.

Thirteen states have changed their voting laws, primarily by shortening early voting periods, limiting third-party registration and making it more difficult for those who have moved between counties to vote.

The reason for the new laws? Voter fraud, specifically that of non-citizen voting.
It’s an issue that comes up seldomly, but has been the driving force behind the new legislation.

Scott Gessler, Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State, testified before a U.S. House committee in March, claiming that between 106 and 11,000 non-citizens are registered to vote in Colorado. Gessler is in favor of stronger voter-ID laws to curb the possible problem.

The gap between 106 and 11,000 is a large one, and it makes me think that no one really knows the scope of the problem — or even if a problem exists.

While the excuse for these new laws is eliminating non-citizen voters, students end up suffering more than almost any other group.

The current Colorado laws require no proof of citizenship, aside from checking a box on the form, when registering to vote. The solution that some states have arrived at is requiring all voters to show a state-issued photo ID at the polls.

All voters should be required to prove their citizenship in order to vote, but why not tackle the issue during registration instead of at the polls?

In a town like Fort Collins, where many students use a bike as their primary transportation, driver’s licenses aren’t as common as they are in other towns, especially among students.

CSU students not originally from Larimer County –– which is to say, a lot of us –– may be turned away from the voting booth if Colorado changes its voting laws to reflect the trends.

Many states have enacted laws requiring a provisional ballot to be cast if the voter has moved since the last voting cycle.

Provisional ballots are used when there are questions about the voter’s eligibility, and they are not counted until days after the election.

As students, we move frequently, making us a demographic that suffers because of these laws.

The current Colorado law allows for address changes to be recorded at the voting booth, but that could change.

Another target of the new laws is third-party registration. These groups help to register demographics that have low registration numbers. Students fall into this category.

I first came to CSU in the fall of 2008. The presidential election campaigns were in full swing and third-party registration was all over the campus. It was actually one of these third-party groups that got me to sign up as a voter in the state of Colorado.

The new laws require third-party groups to submit voter registration forms within 48 hours or face possible fines.

In Florida, where this may soon be the case, the League of Women Voters — a third-party registration group — has said they will stop registering voters because they cannot ask their volunteers to assume the risk of fines.

None of these laws make voting impossible, and with or without them, student populations should be more enthused to vote than we have been in the past.

I don’t believe, though, that making voting more difficult will achieve this. In fact, voting should be made as easy as possible for those who qualify if we want to see a greater turnout at the polls.

On May 30, the Denver Post reported that Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet had written a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking that the Justice Department look into the new voting laws to see whether or not the Voting Rights Act has been violated.

It’s easy to make this an issue of party affiliation –– after all, the new laws have been passed and supported by Republicans while the opposition to them has come from Democrats.

I don’t see it as a Republican v. Democrat issue, though. For me, these laws are infringing on every citizen’s right to vote no matter the party affiliation.
What problems are the states solving with these new laws? The threat of non-citizen voters, of which possibly very few exist?

These laws are made to suppress certain groups of voters both legal and –– more unlikely –– illegal.

Nic Turiciano is a senior journalism major. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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