College students have long been a key demographic for the left, and the resources put into voter registration drives and get out the vote efforts have often paid off for Democrats.

However, college-age voters are also less likely to vote than older demographics, and they are facing new challenges with the Wuhan coronavirus shutdowns of college campuses across the country.


For some reason, college students who have not returned to campus due to COVID shutdowns are reportedly finding it difficult to figure out where or how to register to vote.

The Washington Post reports (archive link):

Yet the pandemic has created thorny challenges for college students trying to cast their ballots this year — and their predicaments are growing more dire as state voter registration deadlines loom.

Some schools that initially reopened this fall have already sent students home after struggling to contain soaring infection rates, creating complications for those who were planning to vote at or near campus. Other schools may follow suit at any given point this fall, leaving students unsure about the best address to use to register to vote.

Many colleges and universities that are still open canceled their fall breaks in an effort to send students home by Thanksgiving, which means some students who had planned on voting early at home in October no longer will have time off to do so.

. . . . The barriers facing youth voters could carry significant electoral consequences for Democrats. National polls show voters under 30 are less likely to identify with a political party but more likely to identify as liberal or progressive, and that recent protests over institutional racism and police brutality of Black Americans have galvanized their interest in the 2020 election.

I find it astounding that college students can’t figure out how or where to vote.  It’s hard not to wonder if the infantilization of America is not at least in part to blame.  After all, I—and tens of millions of my generation of youth voters—managed to figure out how to register to vote and then where to go to cast my vote . . . all without campus organizations to remind me, political GOTV groups to hold my hand, nor as this was long before the internet existed, a vast array of websites to help me.

I found this portion particularly illuminating in terms of college students’ struggling mightily with how to vote and even with where to buy a postage stamp.

Ally Longo, a 19-year-old student at Columbia College Chicago, works with a civic engagement group on campus, Columbia Votes, to help other students navigate voting challenges, including delivering envelopes to mail their voter registration applications and stamps to students who may have difficulty finding them.

. . . .Longo, who is registered to vote in her hometown of Irvine, Calif., worries that mail delays could slow the delivery of her ballot or that she could be forced to go home before her ballot arrives. While she lives in off-campus housing, she is bracing for any potential scenario.

Get out the vote, and voter registration efforts are also being affected by the campus shutdowns. However, various groups are organizing online to help fill the void left by largely empty college campuses.

The Washington Free Beacon reports:

College campuses that once reliably boosted Democratic candidates in key swing states have seen voter registration rates plunge amid coronavirus shutdowns, public data show.

Universities across the country have embraced online-only classes or “hybrid” learning models in response to the pandemic. Those restrictions, a Washington Free Beacon review of voter registration data found, have likely dealt a blow to Democrats in some of the most competitive election races in the country. New voter registrations in the vicinity of seven major public universities in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina have plummeted compared with 2016.

The locked-down college campus, in other words, could help determine the 2020 election, as thousands of students either vote from their home states or do not register at all. That could be a setback for Democratic contender Joe Biden, and for Democrats down-ballot, given the party’s overwhelming popularity with America’s most liberal and least politically engaged age group.

Official data show that voter registrations have plummeted across seven large public universities that boast a cumulative population of more than 270,000 voting-age students in four swing states. In 2016, the fall leading up to the November election was a key time for voter sign-ups, with the seven colleges averaging 100 to 200 new registrations every week following the resumption of fall classes. One, the University of Wisconsin Madison, saw more than 1,700 new registrations in the first week of October alone.

What was once a river has become a trickle with average weekly registrations dropping below 40 on campuses. In the weeks since the start of the semester, cumulative registrations fell 94 percent at Ohio University and 93 percent at Michigan State University.

. . . . Madi Mrzygod, president of the College Democrats at North Carolina State University, agreed that voter registration numbers looked better in 2016.

“It is sad to see that we cannot encourage people to go vote by literally handing them a registration form and watching them fill it out, but we do have social media on our side,” she said.

Democrats, who are largely responsible for creating entire generations that can’t seem to formulate a thought of their own nor feel empowered to solve a single problem—stamps, where on earth does one get stamps?!—without relying on political organizations or government, are also, appropriately, the ones most likely to feel the sting in November.

The Free Beacon continues:

The collapse of campus registrations could prove a major challenge to Biden, whose path to the White House likely runs through at least a few of the four states. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton thanks in particular to narrow victories in Wisconsin and Michigan, where he won by 23,000 and 11,000 votes, respectively. By comparison, more than 5,000 University of Wisconsin students and more than 1,300 Michigan State students registered by the end of 2016; less than half as many have registered so far this year, which could set Biden further back in states he needs desperately to win.

The decline in registrations could hurt Biden and Democrats more generally because theirs is the party with which young people and the college-educated are overwhelmingly more likely to affiliate. In the 2018 midterms, for example, 18- to 29-year-olds broke for Democrats by a 49-percentage-point margin, while college grads generally favored them by a 17-point advantage.

. . . .  Jack Harrison, communications director for the Michigan State College Republicans, told the Free Beacon there is still plenty of energy for Republicans in the district, and he predicts high turnout in spite of the restrictions.

“We have clearly seen more Republican candidates knocking doors and contacting voters, which I believe will translate into strong turnout for Republican candidates,” Harrison said. “Specific to [our] youth vote, I know Senate candidate John James continues to be popular.”

And you just knew the cries of disenfranchisement and voter suppression were coming, right?

College shutdowns may have already helped shape the 2020 election cycle. A progressive candidate for Ohio’s Third Congressional District—home to Ohio State University—blamed the university’s decision to cancel in-person classes for her campaign’s ultimate defeat. Candidate Morgan Harper, who lost by more than 21,000 votes, said campus shutdowns were a form of voter suppression.

 

 
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