North Texas Daily

Restrictive voting rights hurt college students

Restrictive voting rights hurt college students

Restrictive voting rights hurt college students
November 05
11:50 2019

Voting in the 2019 general election and the 2020 presidential race is just around the corner, and college students may be the key to turning the vote to one side or another. However, most college students are first-time voters and they often lack the knowledge or resources to learn how, when and if they can vote. 

Recently, many news organizations have broken stories about voter disenfranchisement. Basically, a lot of ballots or registration applications are submitted but ultimately rejected. 171 registration applications were rejected at George Mason University this October. Most of the denials were due to the students putting their mailbox number or general university address as their current address which is not valid to use. Since GMU allows any student to have a campus mailbox, Fairfax County cited that it would be impossible to know where the students actually live and if they are indeed eligible to vote in the county. 

Originally, the Fairfax County registrar sent out a notice of rejection to the 171 students. However, Virginia law prohibits rejection due to an insufficient living address, so they sent out a follow-up letter addressing how to fix the application. Despite this, the initial rejection letter will most likely dissuade many students from even bothering to try to fix it. Additionally, with it being so close to election day, the students might not fix it in time. 

Voting by mail can be a beneficial option, specifically for out-of-state college students, but there has been a significant increase in the restrictions placed on those trying to vote by mail. If there is any slight error in the mail-in ballot, the vote can be rejected making it very easy for students to feel like they have lost their right to vote or that their vote doesn’t matter. 

16 states, including the District of Columbia, have agencies that participate in automatic voter registration that usually takes place at the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, Texas is not one of those states. Not allowing automatic registration puts just another burden on Texas voters which often times leads voters to not register at all. 

Generally, voting fraud happens due to lack of knowledge in current laws or policies. Crystal Mason was sentenced up to five years in prison last fall after voting in the 2016 election. Mason was previously convicted of tax fraud, making her ineligible to vote. However, she was unaware of this going into the 2016 election. Her provisional ballot was not counted, but she was still prosecuted for it. Rosa Ortega was a green card holder with permanent residency when she registered to vote in 2012 and then proceed to vote in the 2012 and 2014 elections.

In 2017, a judge sentenced her to eight years in prison for voter fraud and she will face deportation after she is released. She simply did not know that permanent residents could not vote. 

Americans should not be penalized and imprisoned for accidentally having the wrong information about voting. Instead of focusing on the criminalization of voter fraud, we should look to expand voting rights across the board and to expand people’s knowledge on who can actually vote and how to properly vote.

If you are trying to register to vote and don’t know how, seek help from the UNT Deputy Voter Registrar at Eagle Commons Library in Sycamore Hall. They have a website that gives UNT students information on how to vote. From 2014 to 2019, there was an increase of 19% to 40% in college students being registered to vote, which caused a massive spike of voters in the 2018 midterms.

Let’s keep that number rising and cast our vote to expand voting rights.

Featured Illustration: Jae-Eun Suh

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Natalie Taylor

Natalie Taylor

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