Wednesday, December 5, 2007

No Place for Suppression in Iowa

David Yepsen’s column discouraging participation by young people who attend college in Iowa but grew up in another state raises concerns. Across the country, status quo political forces occasionally manipulate election outcomes by discouraging students from participating (e.g., see this Rock the Vote report which summarizes Prairie View A&M and other instances). Such activity is routinely described as voter suppression and is prohibited by courts.

Certainly, Yepsen differs from those in the deep South who suppressed the vote to stay in power, and college students differ from African Americans in the 1960s. But Yepsen's language is disturbing: "These are the Iowa caucuses. Asking people who are 'not from Iowa' to participate in them changes the nature of the event . . . . Thousands of votes are involved and it risks offending long-time Iowa residents."

Discouraging participation by Americans who are legally entitled to caucus—whether through veiled threats of political backlash against candidates who reach out to those Americans or by other means—violates government of, by, and for the people.

Suppression also compromises Iowa's special role in starting off the American presidential contest.

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