The youth voter suppression crisis is real. Following the 2018 midterm elections, state legislatures and local elections officials across the country moved to restrict access to the ballot for young people and people of color. And the 2020 election was no exception. Unfortunately, things are only getting worse.

In order to provide a platform for young people to share their story and discuss the challenges they face when voting, Generation Vote is thrilled to announce that we will be embarking on a four month Youth Voting Rights Listening Tour throughout the United States. GenVote’s Youth Voting Rights Listening Tour will be “stopping” in New York, New Hampshire, Florida, Michigan, and Texas. Listening tour participants will also have the opportunity to help GenVote build a new vision, strategy and story for a national youth voting rights movement.

If you’ve faced challenges when trying to vote, if you have bold visions for what the future of our Democracy could look like, or you simply want to share space with your peers and learn more about the barriers to the ballot for young voters, this tour is for YOU!

GenVote is HYPED to hear your stories in the coming months! This is one tour you won’t want to miss.

New Hampshire


It's been said that New Hampshire is ground zero for youth voter suppression, and that's an understatement. In 2018, New Hampshire passed a law requiring voters to establish domicile in the state by obtaining a New Hampshire drivers license and vehicle registration, which can cost hundreds of dollars and present a barrier to voter registration for out-of-state students and first-year college students.

After Republicans took control of the state’s legislature in 2020, House lawmakers introduced three bills restricting student voting: HB 554, HB 362, and HB 429. These three bills would prevent people from voting in New Hampshire if they maintained domicile in another state, prevent someone from registering to vote using a college campus address, and would prohibit the use of a college ID to vote.

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Florida


Youth Voter Suppression is alive and well in Florida, and it comes in many shapes and forms.

In 2014, Florida’s Republican Secretary of State outlawed early voting polling sites at public universities. The ban was overturned by the courts in 2018, which led to over 60,000 using on-campus early voting polling sites to cast their votes. Unfortunately, the Florida State Legislature reinstated the ban in 2019 by requiring sufficient non-permitted parking, which is hard to come by on small campuses.

More recently, in 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature passed a bill that prevented anyone with outstanding court fees from voting, preventing up to 80% of incarcerated individuals who had their right to vote restored by Amendment 4 in 2018. Disenfranchisement hurts families and young people, particularly in urban communities and communities of color.




New York


New York’s youth turnout rate is lagging far behind the rest of the country. The youth share of all votes cast in New York decreased from 16.4% in 2018 to 15% in 2020. In fact, only 6 states had a lower youth share of all votes cast in 2020 than New York, and the rate difference between each state was slim.

New York’s young voters are not less enthusiastic, or less responsible. Instead, they face unique barriers to making their voices heard. For example, it took Stony Brook University students 3 hours to travel to their early voting site in 2019. More recently, in New York’s 22nd congressional district, the Oneida County Board of Elections failed to register 2,418 voters who applied on time through the DMV (most of which were young people), thus preventing them from voting on election day.

Furthermore, students at Bard College had to sue to get a polling site on their campus for the 2020 election after a decade of intimidation and suppression in Dutchess County.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only further exasperated the systemic cracks in New York’s electoral system. The pandemic disrupted schools across New York, bringing youth voter registration efforts to a standstill. 90,730 young people turned 18 in New York in 2020, and over half a million more eligible 18-29 year olds face extremely limited options for registering and exercising their right to vote.

The list goes on and on, but one thing is clear: youth voter suppression is not limited to red states.




Michigan


Intimidation and education (or a lack thereof) are paramount in the effort to suppress access to the ballot, especially for young and nonwhite voters

. As a matter of fact, during the 2020 election cycle, young voters and voters of color were direct targets of online and phone based misinformation and disinformation campaigns designed to convey false information in an effort to deter people away from the polls.

What’s worse is that many voters came face to face with intimidation tactics when actually trying to vote. Conservative groups from across the country sent hundreds of poll challengers to Detroit with instructions to challenge the counting of every single absentee ballot as well as monitor the polls while folks were voting.

Young people tend to be very susceptible to misinformation and intimidation as a result of a rapidly deteriorating civic education curriculum in our schools. In order to reimagine what the future of our democracy could look like for young people, a civic education revamp and an investment in growing voters is critical.




Texas


Youth voter suppression in Texas was on full display during the 2020 election cycle. Regrettably, it seems the suppression is going to get worse before it gets better.

In the 2020 presidential primary, students at the Texas Southern University-a historically Black College- waited on 6 hour lines to vote. This was caused in-part by the State Legislature's recent effort to eliminate mobile early voting sites on college campuses and close hundreds of poll sites in Black and Brown communities.

As if the removal and closure of polling locations wasn’t enough, an age restriction was set on mail-in voting (only voters above the age of 65 can vote by mail), effectively barring displaced students and young voters from voting by mail in the midst of the 2020 pandemic.

Unless something is done to address this crisis, it seems youth voter suppression in Texas will only get worse.