April 4, 2011- BuzzFlash at Truthout suggests you read the well-received first column on ALEC, "Smart ALEC: Dragging the Secretive Conservative Organization Out of the Shadows."
Nearly forty years after a constitutional amendment conferring voting rights on eighteen year-olds was passed into law, and signed by President Richard Nixon, the American Legislative Exchange Council is doing all it can to make it difficult for young people to vote.
Nearly forty years after a Constitutional Amendment giving 18-21 year-olds the right to vote, Republican legislators across the country are trying to disenfranchise youth under the subterfuge of combatting "voter fraud." However, as Christina Francisco-McGuire recently pointed out at progressivestates.org, instances of *voter fraud "are so rare that one is more likely to be struck by lightening." Amongst the legislation being pushed in various states are photo id requirements, the abandonment of election-day registration, and the redefining of student residency requirements.
"The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization linked to corporate and right-wing donors, including the billionaire Koch Brothers, [see "Smart ALEC: Dragging the Secretive Conservative Organization Out of the Shadows" has drafted and distributed model legislation, obtained by Campus Progress, that appears to be the inspiration for bills proposed by state legislators this year and promoted by Tea Party activists, bills that would limit access of young people to vote," Tobin Van Ostern reported in Campus Progress in early March ("Conservative Corporate Advocacy Group ALEC Behind Voter Disenfranchisement Efforts").
Van Ostern wrote: "According to research by the Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) and Campus Progress, in the past six years, seven states have enacted laws that disenfranchise students or make it more difficult for them to vote. This year, 18 additional states are considering similar laws, while other states are proposing voter ID laws that would depress turnout among other groups of voters — particularly those who traditionally lean left.
"These requirements run the gamut from requiring in-state driver's licenses, to banning school IDs, to prohibiting first-time voters – essentially every college-aged voter – from voting by absentee ballot. All together, these barriers create new logistical and financial barriers for many people attempting to vote."
Van Ostern's investigation found that "Many of the state proposals appear to stem from model legislation known as the Voter ID Act (also known as Photo ID) that was developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council.
"In a 2009 public report, ALEC described Voter ID legislation as "proactive" and offered up examples of states successfully passing the legislation as providing 'a helpful guide' for other states to follow."
When Campus Progress tried to get copies of ALEC's model legislation, it was rebuffed by the organization. Van Ostern pointed out that "ALEC spokesperson Raegan Weber emailed, 'Model legislation is a privilege of membership and therefore we don't provide this publicly'" According to Van Ostern, this is "a somewhat unusual practice by a non-profit public policy group organized under the Internal Revenue Service code as a 501(c)(3) charitable or educational group; most such organizations make public most fruits of their labors, rather than concealing it from people who aren't members."
In a story headlined "N.H. bill intended to block youth vote" (The University of Tennessee's The Daily Beacon, March 29, 2011), Elliott Devore pointed out that the goal of New Hampshire's House Bill 176 "is to alter the eligibility of voter registration within the state by changing the definition of domicile" .
Rep. Gregory Sorg, who introduced the New Hampshire bill, said that students were "transient inmates … with a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce." He added that the bill will end "unfair domination of local elections by students."
Devore reported that William O'Brien, the Republican New Hampshire state house speaker, "was quoted in reference to college students at a recent Tea Party event saying, 'voting as a liberal. That's what kids do. … Students lack 'life experience,' and they just vote their feelings.'"
"Forty years ago this week," Real Clear Politics' Carl M. Cannon reported on March 25th, "the House of Representatives, on an overwhelming bipartisan vote, sent a proposed constitutional amendment to the states to lower the voting age in this country to 18. … Two weeks earlier, the Senate passed it 94-0; and the measure that became the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified by the states in record time.
"By Independence Day, it was the law of the land, and at a July 5, 1971 White House signing ceremony, President Nixon gazed on a sea of handpicked young faces and proclaimed, 'The reason I believe that your generation, the 11 million new voters, will do so much for America at home is that you will infuse into this nation some idealism, some courage, some stamina, some high moral purpose that this country always needs.'"
The battle for the youth vote had begun.