Young Valencia Richardson is a Georgetown University Law Center student who is doing remarkable things in and for her community. It all began during her freshman year at Louisiana State University (LSU) where she founded Geaux Vote LSU ; an organisation whose sole purpose was to educate the thirty thousand LSU students on their civic duty and to promote their participation in the civic process. Valencia had assumed, just like many others, that the reason many young students didn’t participate in the electoral process was because of voter apathy and a general disinterest in the electoral process. In the state of Louisiana the voter turnout of students between 18-20 years old could go as low 10- 15% during a non-presidential year.
Valencia and other members of the Geaux Vote LSU would go to their campus’ Free Speech Alley on a weekly basis to register voters. It was here where she first noticed that contrary to popular belief, students were actually not completely disinterested in the electoral process, in fact they would constantly field questions from students on voting and the electoral process as a whole. She then realized that the reason why that specific demographic had such a low voter turn out was not because the students are disaffected or disinterested, instead it was an unfortunate result of the laws surrounding the electoral process being so opaque and unhelpful that they completely dissuaded the students interest and made it harder for students to participate in the process.
Let’s take Louisiana state law for example, it requires that the identification used in voter registration and voting be state issued with a full name, photograph and signature. Therein lies the problem since Louisiana student IDs did not include a signature making many students ineligible to participate in voting. It was with this great realization that Geaux Vote LSU began partnering with the Andrew Goodman Foundation, Louisiana State Representatives and a graduate class at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. After a year of research, outreach and even providing testimonials in front of the Louisiana House, they were finally able to witness the signing of HB 940. This new law stated that all public universities in the state had to ensure that all their students’ IDs were in compliance with state voter ID requirements. As a result of this the state of Louisiana should see an increased voter turn out in that specific demographic. Although schools do not have to comply with the law until 2019, LSU already issued its students with the new IDs make it easier for the students to register as voters.
Valencia Richardson believes that we cannot talk about increasing turnout without ensuring accessibility. In the case of Louisiana all that was needed was a signature on the student’s ID card in order for the student to be allowed to vote. If more steps like these are taken then the winds of change are fast approaching and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store. #Rewordit