Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Michelle Obama Goes to UVA, GOP Attempts to Limit College Vote

September 18th, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

Young people as a whole are notoriously uninterested in politics, but this year more are tuning in. During the primary season, for example, the two-party turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds quadrupled in Iowa and Tennessee and tripled in Florida, Mississippi and Texas compared with 2000.

The general election is also enticing young voters. In 2004, the Rock the Vote registration group signed up about 1 million new voters. This year, the group has already registered about 1.4 million voters.

–from a recent USA Today editorial

Colleges and universities have long served as the backdrop for dramatic shifts in our political and social landscape. It should come as little surprise, then, that Michelle Obama, whose husband has already transformed U.S. politics through his historic run for the presidency, is speaking today on the campus of the University of Virginia, an institution founded by another agent of historic social change, Thomas Jefferson.

There is, of course, a downside to the college campus’s reputation as a hotbed of social activism and political change. For example, those outside of the university might be afraid of the potential of such a concentration of passionate and politically engaged voters to shift political outcomes throughout the region, and in a way that is disproportionate to their numbers.

Such fears are, no doubt, behind the push in certain Virginia communities to limit students’ voting rights. The Roanoke Times is one of several papers reporting on efforts of Virginia Republicans to challenge the legitimacy of the registration of students whose on-campus address differs from their permanent address (most often their parents’ home address).

Jon Taplin’s Blog details the efforts of certain Virginia districts to discourage student participation by disseminating false information threatening “dire consequences” like the inability to apply for financial aid, should students register to vote in any precinct other than that which corresponds with their parents’ home address. Jon Taplin comments on the specific struggle of Virginia Tech students to maintain their right to register and vote:

When I was helping register Black Voters for SNCC in 1964, I would have laughed if you had told me that middle class white college students would need the help of a civil rights lawyer to get registered.

You may recall similar attempts to disenfranchise college students during the Democratic primary. I blogged on this phenomenon back in January of this year. Now, efforts to squash the student vote, which disporportionately favors the Democratic presidential candidate, have resurfaced again, as particular jurisdictions attempt to limit the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens, threatening — in effect — to penalize them for choosing Virginia as the place where they want to spend their undergraduate years.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in Current Events, Higher Education, Michelle Obama, University of Virginia

2 Responses

  1. SjP

    It is clear that they are going to do everything in their power to keep folks from voting. But, they are not in control and that’s a blessing to remember.

    Hope you get a chance to drop by SjP’s. Left you a little something there.

  2. Mari-Djata

    It is amazing how low people can go at each other’s expense. Older people aren’t scared to let younger people die in their wars, but they are afraid for these younger people to out vote them in elections. Hypocrisy by any other name…