Infographic of the Day: The GOP's War Against the Youth Vote

In the wake of the 2008 presidential election, many states are enacting laws to make it difficult for college students to vote.

Just a few years ago, the idea of "mobilizing the student vote" made veteran politicos laugh into their dinner napkins: The thinking was that young voters never show up in large enough volumes to sway elections, and that young people were simply too callow to live up to their supposed ideals.

But a funny thing happened in 2008: The young (along with minorities) really did show up at the polls, and they helped carry Barack Obama to victory. Now those old politicos have taken note, and are busy trying to enact laws that make it harder and harder for students to vote, as you can see in this infographic by Campus Progress, a youth-centered offshoot of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank:


These changes center on creating laws that make voters present proof-of-residence documents. But college students—who often spend nine months out of the year away from home—often can't provide such docs, beyond just student I.D.'s. (Granted, students could theoretically re-register as in-state residents, but think about your own college experience. Did you? I'll bet you kept your home-state driver's license. Also, remember that student voters tend to register at the last minute — when it's too late to get formal residency changed.)

The changes aren't an accident: As The Washington Post reports, they're part of a coordinated movement led by Republicans, and efforts have been particularly hot in states such as New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, which are all expected to be battleground states in the 2012 elections.

Granted, there is debate about the motives at work: Tea partiers have claimed that these bills are designed to lower costs associated with registering new voters close to election deadlines (all those expensive voter cards, you know), and Republicans have claimed that these laws simply fight voter fraud. (Democrats counter that no evidence of voter fraud exists.)

But then again, as Campus Progress notes, many key anti-student movements have been funded by the Koch brothers, the billionaire Tea Party activists. And some lawmakers aren't even bothering to claim a pretext: The sponsor of the voter-law measure in New Hampshire, a Republican, recently said that student votes are merely "kids voting liberal, voting their feelings, with no life experience." Which you'd think is their right—a feature of democracy, and not merely a bug.

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  • Matt Butts

    So what the Republicans seem to be saying here is, "It would have worked, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

  • Scott Mills

    Republicans and Democrats are equally motivated in their positions - each believes power can be claimed through their respective voter law initiatives. It seems disingenuous to vilify the Repubs only while the Dems are equally self serving. And "controversial" is in the eye of the beholder. A student can't withdraw money from a bank or purchase tobacco without showing legitimate identification. It's time our election process catches up to the local convenience store. And Election Day registration is such a controversial practice that it's still not offered in a majority of states. Your data is interesting but the left leaning here is just too overt.

  • Nordberg John

    Very simply:

    - College kids who do not establish residency in the state where they go to school must vote absentee...period. What is so evil about that? They need to follow the same rules as everyone else. This is not a new concept.

    - These new laws are aimed at reducing fraud across ALL demographics...they do not specifically target college kids, and do not prohibit college kids from doing things others cannot do.

    - The fact that there are colleges in the states trying to reduce vote fraud is not a big surprise...every state has colleges (correlation does not imply a causal relationship).

    - No one has a problem with college kids voting for liberal candidates as long as the kids are properly and legally registered to vote

    Vote once, and vote however you want...just don't try to vote where you aren't registered and/or don't meet the requirements.

  • Cliff Kuang

    Thanks for your comments guys, but I'm sorry, most of you haven't even read any of the supporting articles that are mentioned in the piece. These laws ARE NOT about simply requiring I.D. in order to vote. These laws are about making it difficult for students to vote in the states where they go to school. I'll just quote one commenter here, Byron Moore:

    "If you look at the actual laws, and not this blog written about them, you'd see that this isn't just asking kids to show ID. Proposals can range from having to show an in state ID, which would make a large percentage have to vote absentee by default, to prohibiting absentee for first time voters, to disallowing student ID issued by the state. A lot of you have blow this way out of whack to make a statement about liberals. You are independents if you think this is a biased article, because you basically haven't even looked at what the laws say. It's a joke to call yourself informed and even more laughable to just make statements on what you assume is laws just saying please show an ID."

  • Cliff Kuang

    And another thing I'll add: These bills being put up for passage in New Hampshire and elswhere have been WIDELY reported in the mainstream press. You can look to the Washington Post link above, and elsewhere, for confirmation. Simply because the Center for American Progress produced that graphic doesn't mean it's a left-leaning hack job. I find it strange indeed in the days when BOTH political parties routinely engage in practices such as district gerrymandering that the idea of tinkering with voting laws so that they help or hurt various political parties seems so far out of possibility.

    Also, I would point out that all these claims of widespread voter fraud HAVE NOT been borne out in study after study of the issue. Voter fraud isn't a myth, but it's not the outrageous scam that most of you would seem to believe.

  • bluerei

    I think I accidentally went to the wrong website. I was looking for cool design stuff and it redirected me to some political blog.

  • randyunsbee

    Wow, I'm amazed (and disappointed) that Fast Company would become a political mouthpiece for any organization. Worse yet, it's featured on their email page? Way too much kool aid drinking at the Fast Company offices and not enough intellectual integrity.

  • Nordberg John

    Wow. Really?
    This made it through the editorial staff to be posted as journalism and not opinion?

    Not even one mention of how the Motor Voter Act automatically registers these college kids, much less about how it enables even non-citizens to vote.

    If non-citizens are able to vote, and have been voting in record numbers, I think college kids are able to figure out how to vote at least once...if they are provided with misinformation and encouraged to hate the GOP.

    Just saying.

  • Mark C

    I typically enjoy this blog and its design content. One thing I don't enjoy? Left-wing propaganda from the Center for American Progress. I recommend opinionated content like this be saved for the author's personal blog.

    I can't buy a TV at Best Buy without showing proof that I am who I say I am; voting should require the same exercise. I am not a fan of allowing elections to be tainted by the votes of dead people and illegal aliens. Obviously, more stringent requirements are needed. If college students want to vote, they can do what I did not so long ago - be proactive, go through the correct process, and get an absentee ballot.

  • byron moore

    These Comments are a joke. If you look at the actual laws, and not this blog written about them, you'd see that this isn't just asking kids to show ID. Proposals can range from having to show an in state ID, which would make a large percentage have to vote absentee by default, to prohibiting absentee for first time voters, to disallowing student ID issued by the state. A lot of you have blow this way out of whack to make a statement about liberals. You are independents if you think this is a biased article, because you basically haven't even looked at what the laws say. It's a joke to call yourself informed and even more laughable to just make statements on what you assume is laws just saying please show an ID.

  • Dan Ferraro

    You do realize criticizing people for not doing the extra research past a blog post goes against the entire idea of putting news on a blog? The medium used is meant to be a conduit to the news/facts. If not, then just write a headline and a link to another, more in depth article and don't write a thing beyond that. If you're going to selectively fill in the details then it's just shady and misleading reporting. Also, people are reacting to a fairly info-less infographic with sparse facts to support it. So no - comments about IDs aren't ridiculous since information about IDs was all that was given.

  • byron moore

    But they're criticizing programs that they don't even know about and that's the problem. The story was the info graphic, but if you want to debate the program, at least have the decency to research it. Just because it's on a blog doesn't mean you don't have to at least try to get informed.

  • Bud Thompson

    Give Fast Company credit here. This piece was beautifully researched, well-written and designed.

    It simply chronicles the GOP's attempt to decrease the numbers of college-student voters who went for Obama in 2008.

    This is news. It is happening. Is Fast Company supposed to keep it secret?

  • Dan Ferraro

    While the timeline DOES seem a bit coincidental, I'd be inclined to agree with most posters on this and say that it's not over the line. In fact - as a liberal - I'd LOVE it each consecutive generation of young adults became more and more active in the political process. Someone that is well informed about the the candidates will most likely have the wherewithal to do an out-of-state or register in that state.

    I do, however, find it sightly distasteful for a publication such as this to use FOX-esque sensationalist headlines merely for the click-throughs.

  • tamara

    It's not a stretch to ask voters for identification. For several years, I've wondered why it wasn't a requirement to show a form of government ID to vote. It's ridiculous to say that these laws were put into place to 'harm students' or 'keep them from voting'.

    If a student can't be bothered to get a state-issued ID where they go to college, or to have an absentee ballot mailed to them from their home state, then they don't get my sympathy when they aren't able to vote.

    Another interesting point that this article did not bring up: when you move to a different state to go to college, you notice a very big difference in fees for residents and non-residents. Most students, whether prompted by parents or looming student loan bills, would rather pay the lower tuition cost offered to a resident. The easiest way to prove residency? Go and get a state-issued ID. I did, a week after moving across the country. And while I was there, I registered to vote in that state. What a revelation!

    I really love reading the articles on this website, but I feel this one was exceptionally narrow. The new voting laws and the ramifications therein is an interesting topic that is both important and relevant. Focusing on a tiny facet of a highly exaggerated potential ramification of those laws just doesn't make much sense.

  • S Balakrishnan

    This article is so shamelessly liberal. I say this as an independent observer who loves Fast Company (can't even wait for an issue, just keep coming to the site frequently) AND am very interested in politics though can't vote since I am not a citizen. Seriously, is requiring an ID to vote such a crime? I thought enforcing 1 man, 1 vote is a noble goal? And somehow, it seems like the conclusion which you can draw from almost just the first paragraph is that if you require ID then you must be anti-liberal and anti-democracy? Jeez. This is opinion writing masquerading as 'science' (just because you have some so-called infographic) and has no place in an esteemed magazine like Fast Company. I've always got MSNBC and Fox for that.

  • T. Short

    A funny thing also happened in 2010, during the midterms, when the youth vote was nowhere to be found. I live in Brooklyn, New York City, where in fall 2008 the streets were mobbed with young people, like me, rejoicing over the election they supposedly had wrested from the proverbial, provincial 'flyover' precincts. Last November, absent catchy branding, Shepard Fairey posters, or viral videos -- the thumbprints of the creative, design, and media communities -- the polling places were virtually empty. Fast Company: get thee to work on 2012 ASAP!

  • tanner townsend

    I've long since come to grips with the fact that Fast Co. is a decidedly liberal publication but this column was ridiculous. The folks who have already commented covered many of the issues I had with this piece so I won't bother reiterating them.

    In spite of the magazine's unashamed leanings, I love it and look forward to the arrival of each new issue. At least eight of my friends have subscribed because of the numerous articles I've shared with them but it's uninformed, one-sided writing like this that turns many away. In the four years I've been reading your magazine, the closest thing to a pro-conservative piece I've read was the one about T. Boone Pickins and his wind farm endeavors. 99% of this article focused on wind power with, at most, two lines touching on Boone's politics.

    Fast Co, if you're going to continue with the political pieces please allow both sides of the story to be represented. If I wanted hyper-subjective, one-sided vantage points I'd watch SNL and read the Huffington Post.

  • hemidude

    It does seem odd (partisan?) that requiring ID and residency are too big a hurdle for these fine Americans to manage, and that this action would some how equate to a war on the youth.

    If they care about voting, these changes harm no one. Empty headed simpletons certainly have the right to vote, but gladly there is some effort required or they miss the opportunity. There has to be some qualification other than to be born, 18, and breathing, and proof that one is qualified by requiring ID seems a pretty low bar.

  • Matthew DeBusk

    Personal accountability, our youth need to embrace it and stop complaining about it. Requiring ID and foresight for an upcoming PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION is cause to make a claim that a state is "bad for student voting"? That's B.S.

    I'm just over 30, voted while in college (out of state), and paid attention to the issues when making my decision; not just a whimsical cast of my vote between classes because it was cool to vote for "change". Yes I now sound like my father, but that's what happens. We grow up, take responsibility, pay attention to what is going on in the world and our own environment, and try to make the best decisions that make our lives and communities better.

    To the author, I'm surprised by the resistance and this article to make voting for THE PRESIDENT a more thought based action, rather than as simple as a text message vote for the next American Idol.