July 6, 2011; Source: The Hill’s Ballot Box | Bill Clinton’s post-presidential career has been remarkable for his personal engagement and influence in multiple arenas. At the 2011 Campus Progress National Conference, the former president warned young people about a “pervasive . . . disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time.”
His specific target was the elimination or rejection of same-day registration which would make it difficult for college students to be able to register to vote in the state where they have resided for most of the election (read: school) year. Clinton implied that the efforts to suppress the youth vote were explicit and intentional and compared them to poll taxes and Jim Crow laws meant to suppress the votes of African-Americans in years past.
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From his perch as an international philanthropist, Clinton has developed a capacity to put specific issues into broader context. Although he used the language of the civil rights movement, which perhaps does not resonate with some young people, he is actually calling for a modernization of voter registration and voting rights procedures.
People, including young people, are mobile, they use social media (as these young winners of the conference’s national keynote contest attest to with their prize-winning videos), they want to participate in the civic process where they are. It’s time to bring voting in these United States into the twenty-first century, an objective of many nonprofit groups with voter registration programs. Bill Clinton has his finger on the pulse not only of youth, but of modernization of democracy.—Rick Cohen