By Benjamin Aubrey

On March 23, 2021, I attended a Zoom meeting for the monthly Youth Voting Rights working group call, including those part of the Camps Vote Project, which itself is an initiative, part of the Fair Elections Center. Student leaders and state legislative members gave their two cents on the status of voter-friendly and voter suppressive bills going through the legislative process.

The first speaker came from Delegate Maria S. ‘CIA’ Price, the Chair of the Elections Subcommittee and Vice-Chair of the Privileges & Elections Committee for the Virginia Legislature. She has experience with the NAACP and was elected in 2016. She explained that the Virginian Democratic Party managed to win the majority of all branches of state government, meaning their party would be able to deal with issues regarding protect voters of certain language groups, not bring firearms to polling places, and most importantly, deal with precinct relocations. HB 1890 would prohibit any voting qualifications or any standard, practice, or procedure related to voting from being imposed or applied in a manner that results in the denial or abridgment of the right of any US citizen to vote based on race or color or any membership of a minority language, according to the text itself. Price wants to help expand precinct polling places to universities and curbside voting in general.

The next state to be mentioned was Maryland, with the topic being the Maryland Student & Military Voter Empowerment Act. This state bill would call for a former process for large residential communities to request polling places on-site, including institutions of higher places of education, military installments, retirement and senior community centers. The bill also requires public institutions of higher education to appoint a Student Voting Coordinator (who would most likely an existing staff member of that university)responsible for developing and implementing a student voting plan to increase student resignation and voting, and require the State Board of Elections to maintain webpages to aid students and other voters with navigating through the process. One of the key goals was to point out intentional and unintentional barriers for those attempting to vote.

The third state mentioned was Texas, which is currently a state known, unfortunately, for the amount of anti-voter-friendly legislation. Maya Patel, a legislative aid and Environmental Engagement Coordinator, explains these voter suppressive bills, which she adds are reactionary by Republicans after the 2020 General Election, including HB 6, SB7, and SB 1110-1116. HR 6 makes it harder to assist voters and softens evidence requirements for prosecuting election fraud. SB 7 upends the authority of local governments to conduct elections and makes voting harder for Texans with disabilities. SB 1110-1116 would continue to decrease local government power and to reduce the hours that polling places could be open during early voting. There are, however, bills drafted that can spark hope if given enough time. HB 93 would require counties with large public universities with over 8,000 students to put polling locations on campus, and SB 649 would allow students enrolled in public institutions of higher education to be automatically registered to vote by their county registrar.

Montana was then brought up, specifically, the Forward Montana Foundation, which was made up of young activists. They are afraid of HB 176, ending same-day voter registration, SB 169, increasing voter ID requirements, and HB 406, which was already ruled unconstitutional in Montana courts. The only good bill which has bipartisan support was HB 613, which would aid Native Americans.

The final state brought up was New Hampshire, which now has an all-Republican government, like Florida. Many bills introduced were anti-student, with the most extreme of these removing college addresses as acceptable as domicile for voting if passed, under HB 362. The New Hampshire Democrats hope to proceed with their 2021 pro-Voter Agenda. SB 46, 83, and 89 would include online tools to aid with voting and registering to vote. More information can be found on nhvotingrights.org.

Finally, there was an update on H.R. 1: For the People Act of 2021. The US Senate would hold hearings in the Rules Committee, which can be viewed on rules.senate.gov.