Delaware County is giving students at Haverford College a lesson in voter suppression. For years, students have asked for a polling place on campus, but the county's Bureau of Elections has been blowing them off with lame excuses, saying suggested sites didn't have enough parking or had too much traffic.
About 590 students are registered to vote at the college, but they don't even have a polling place in their voting precinct. They must vote at an elementary school in the neighboring precinct, which is about a half-hour walk from campus. Students have a solution: The college will provide a polling place at no cost to the county.
This should be a no-brainer when the election bureau meets Monday to consider the students' petition — but it's not clear what will happen. Discouraging youth voting is happening around the country, report staff writers Susan Snyder and Holly Otterbein. Florida tried to ban early voting on campuses, but fortunately in July, a federal judge ruled it was unconstitutional. In Baltimore, authorities told students they'd lose their scholarships if they registered at their campus address. In Michigan, first-time voters aren't allowed to vote on campus.
In Pennsylvania, former Gov. Tom Corbett tried to enforce a voter ID law, which would have made it more difficult for the elderly, the poor, and young people to vote because they didn't have driver's licenses. Wisely, the court threw it out four years ago.
Experts don't know much about the political behavior of post-millennials (born after 1997), because they are just now reaching voting age. But, clearly, the old guard is worried. A good clue to post-millennials' political leanings comes from the 2016 University of California's poll of students entering college, the latest available survey. More than 36 percent defined themselves as left of center, and 22 percent put themselves on the right.
It is not known whether they will vote in large numbers in the upcoming midterm elections. If they do, younger voters could wipe out the influence of Baby Boomers and older generation voters on Nov. 6. According to a June Pew Research study, there will be 135 million voters aged 53 and younger verses the older generations' 93 million voters. Pew looked at voter behavior in 2014, the last round of midterm elections,and found that older voters outran younger voters by 21 million votes.
There is certainly far more voter excitement leading up to the 2018 general election than there was in the sleepy 2014 cycle. Additionally, young voters are energized by the survivors of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla. The survivors have made gun control an election issue.
Like every generation before them, post-millennials will put their mark on our national politics as they come of age. Instead of trying to marginalize young voters, Delaware County leaders have a chance to show them that the job of a county election bureau is to make sure as many voters as possible can cast ballots. That's what a strong democracy looks like.