Student Rights Under Attack: The 26th Amendment and You
Articles Blog

Student Rights Under Attack: The 26th Amendment and You

February 26, 2020

– We’re about to begin. I encourage you if you have
not gotten pizza to do so so we can be nourished, both mind, body and spirit at this event,
that’s our aspiration. My name is Gunther Peck, I’m the director of
Hart Leadership Program and I really am delighted that you’re here for what I know will be a really engaging and I think hopeful
conversation about students, about democracy and about
the difference they have made and will make in our democracy
and in our elections. Also I need to give a quick shout out to some, give some thanks. We are delighted to have collaborators and other wonderful people
across the university and beyond helping us with this event. So we are co-sponsoring this with POLIS, thank you Mark and Deondra,
I saw her somewhere. There she is, our wonderful leaders there. And as I hope many of you know, we had a party to the polls today and early voting has begun. So in no time like the present,
but after this meeting, you can you can figure out voting. We’re also co-sponsoring, we are helped by the
Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, as well as the Andrew Goodman Foundation, you’ll be hearing about them
who are some of our sponsors as well as Democracy North Carolina, an organization that has been historically and in the present really fighting for access for rights and citizenship. And most importantly, we are working in very close collaboration
with You Can Vote a terrific nonprofit in
the area that is helping us with what is known as
The Carolina Challenge, I guess you guys got a different name. – The NC campus Challenge. – The NC Campus Challenge. I’m sorry, but it is a competition among if you didn’t know among eight schools, of which Duke is one of them, and the goal is to get
as many students to vote and to expand right voter registration and voter participation. And we’re also thrilled
to be hosting a PSA, why vote competition, if
you’re interested in that we will happily let you
know about that later. But maybe Kate can say introduce herself, the director of You Can
Vote who is here with us. – Hey, everyone, I’ll just
say a couple quick words about the North Carolina Campus Challenge. I’m so excited that we partnered with Duke and POLIS and Hart Leadership Program here to get this challenge off the ground and Duke was one of our
first sign on campuses. We have two public, two
private, two technical colleges and two public private
technical colleges and two HBCU. So we have an eight campus challenge that is designed to increase
in spurs civic engagement. And it really starts with education and getting students involved and our community partners involved, with making sure people are educated, know their rights this year, get fact based election information and are prepared to
advocate for themselves and their communities at the polls. So we’re excited to see who the winner of the NC campus challenge is. And we’re really excited
to have everyone here volunteering and coming to learn tonight. And if you would like to get involved, there’s going to be a lot of work to do when all of the students
come back in the fall. Everyone gets to get registered
at their current address, and know where to go,
when to go how to vote. And there’s just a lot
of questions that come up in a presidential election year like this. So we would love to have your help, Rachel’s at the table out here. She’s our campus coordinator that was working on Dukes campus. And if you have any
questions you can see Rachel. – Thank you, thank you, Kate. I should also say that Rachel is working with Duke Can Vote, and
which is being coordinated and run by POLIS. So we’re collaboration,
we don’t want duplication, we want everyone to be involved. This is what democracy is, it is an all hands on deck collaboration. And so if you’ve got ideas,
we’d love to hear them. I’m about to show you before we introduce our wonderful speakers
and our student moderator who’s gonna be running the show. I do wanna show you a video
that was made recently about a former student of
mine, Simone Singleton, who voted and was just franchised. I think it’s important
to understand the context of how and why student
voting rights are fragile. So we’re gonna play it
and then we’re gonna go right into the program. This was an event that
we had here two years ago at NC Central, and you’re
going to see audience members participating from NC Central, where we were not too long ago and where we were last night, I should say and had the same conversation
at that fabulous campus. And it was really exciting to hear what those good folks are thinking. So this is our video to give you an idea of a Duke students voting rights story. (slow music) – I’m here today to tell you guys a story and I hope that by the end of it, we can uncover some insights
and raise some questions about what can occur when
the government loses sight of the people it’s meant
to empower and to serve. My first time voting was in 2014. I was a sophomore here at Duke. So it seemed like a pretty
straightforward thing. You register to vote, go to
polling place, you vote great. Civic duty. So I did I registered
to vote here on campus showed up to my polling
place a few weeks later, I showed up in the evening
because at the time I was a full time student and I was also working
pretty much full time. I had heard that there
were gonna be long lines. I waited in line for about an hour, maybe a little bit longer. When I got to the front of the line, I showed the poll worker my
ID, she looked for my name and she couldn’t find it. She said I wasn’t registered to vote, which I thought was weird, because I had definitely
registered to vote. So that’s exactly what I told her. And she responded, you know, no problem. You can vote provisionally
and you’ll be good to go. I voted, turned on my ballot
and got my little sticker. I walked out and ran into
Professor Gunther Peck who was giving students rides home. I told him that I voted provisionally and that was sort of the
end of the conversation. I went home basking in the
glory of getting to vote for the very first time. I was really excited about it. A few weeks went by and
then one day after class, Gunther came up to me,
and he was sort of somber, and he was like, you know, I
have to tell you something. I was like oh no, did I
get a bad grade on a test. Like what did I do? He said, when you told me
that you voted professionally, I felt this sinking feeling in my stomach. So I went to check your voting record and you don’t have a voting record. Your vote didn’t count. I just remember being confused. I definitely voted, I
definitely waited in line and did all the steps the
correct way or so I thought. It was really disorienting
and sort of felt like stealing away this little
coming of age moment for me. It was kind of sad. It didn’t count because
part of North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID bill basically made provisional
ballots illegal. It also made same day
registration illegal. And I don’t think that the poll worker had any sense of being insincere or was trying to be deceptive. It’s not her fault and
instead more of a statement about the larger institutional issues and legislation decisions that
seek to disenfranchise people and to make it more difficult to do this very basic civic duty of voting. It’s hard for me to process
that as anything, but insidious. I can’t see any sort of
democratic intent about that. My first time voting was indeed a coming of age experience. But very different than
the one that I expected. But I do know that we
have to keep the faith and we have a community
here of people who care and centering the narrative
around compassion, around equitability
and around perseverance is really valuable. And we can still acknowledge and work through the trauma that
occurs when your government doesn’t wanna protect you. They wouldn’t be persecuting
us if we weren’t powerful. If we didn’t have the ability
to really make change. They’re scared for a reason. – Well, I think the
youth voter is important for a few reasons. The first is because it’s
a constitutional right. Just because people are young doesn’t mean that their values or
opinions aren’t important. They’re greatly affected
by the legislation that occurs throughout their lifetime and decisions are being
made now in legislation that will affect people
who are children now for the entirety of their lives and the fact that people
that you know their children and so on and so forth. – As young people and young minorities and young people of color, you have to get out there and network. I’m going to an event on Monday night. – People listen to their community. Now listen to you, you have a voice. Not everybody who’s sort of
creating the mainstream media knows about who you value , about people whose voice matters to you. And so some of the disorders can be sorted at grassroots stuff. And that’s the power of social media, you can just sort of share the information and hope that people care. And so staying engaged and
just share the information that you think is valuable
is super important. – I was in college 50 years
more than 50 years ago. And I started studying political science, I studied political science with the intent of going to law school, and myself after my sophomore year, I decided all of the civil
rights cases would be decided that there’d be no work for me to do, because by the time I got out
of law school, I’ll be over. Well, we are still today
fighting the same battles over the same issues the right to vote. So we have to work where we
are, like you said is slow. And by the way, is not
a steady progress up. We make some steps forward
and we seem to slide back. – So lesson I learned
from my first time voting is that it matters. It’s the responsibility of
us all to protect that right. This is our country, it’s
supposed to be equitable. It’s not supposed to be an oligarchy decided by a few people. So it’s important to stay vigilant, it’s important to pay attention and it’s important to keep trying. If we don’t, then all that
disenfranchisement really worked. Silencing the voices of young people of black and brown people worked. And then we don’t get a say anymore. I think the country will be worse off, the people that I care
about will be worse off if I don’t stay engaged. So it’s important to me to
shape the way the future looks. It’s not the government’s
future, it’s mine too. – Great. (audience clapping) I wish Simone could have been here, she’s a force as you can see. So what I’d like to do really quickly is to introduce our student moderator, who is going to be asking
questions (mumbles) and our guest speaker and she’ll
be introducing her as well and we’ll get going. So real quickly, Lauren
is a, as a teacher, I have to say I have, it is a great job. Because you get to know
some amazing students in a very short period of time. And I am really feel honored and blessed to have had Lauren take one of my classes, where she asked courageous questions literally every single class
and made us a better community for that honesty and that engagement. I could read parts of her CV,
which would be are just like, astounding to me how much she does and I know it’s true of many of you. I don’t want to embarrass you. But she’s awesome anyway and she’s really perfect for
this job of asking questions that will push us and our guest to think about how we solve some key problems. So, without further ado, Lauren. (audience clapping) – Hey, y’all, how are y’all? I’m sorry that’s how you
know I’m from the South. I say, hey, y’all, how are y’all? So, thank you for that introduction. I’m actually going to
introduce Yael Bromberg who has way more of a civil rights and advocacy profile, than I do. So she is a constitutional rights attorney with over 15 years of experience
in community organizing, advocacy and campaigns. She is currently Chief
Counsel for voting rights for the Andrew Goodman Foundation and principal of the Bromberg Law LLC. She previously worked at
Georgetown University’s Law Center’s Civil Rights
Clinic and Voting Rights Institute as a supervising
attorney and teaching fellow where she also received a LLM
in advocacy with distinction. Her breaking article
And Legal Call to Arms, Youth Voting Rights and
The Unfulfilled Promise of The 26th Amendment
was recently published in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law. So if y’all could give a
big warm welcome to her. (audience clapping) – Thanks, Lauren. You have time, don’t worry. Add another 20 years. Just take it away. – Yeah. – How’s everyone doing? (murmurs) Nice to see everyone and it’s a real honor to be here to help
facilitate this conversation. Nationally, everyone knows
about North Carolina. So sometimes when you’re
in the mix of things, you forget the context. But you guys are notorious. (laughs) But also in, but there’s
also a really good story about what happened before
the Monster Law was introduced where North Carolina was
at the top of the charts in terms of youth voter engagement and voter engagement in general. So, this is a really good case study and model about what happens when democracy becomes bankrupted. And I think nationally, it’s also a really important
case study to understand given where we are right now So I’m gonna just kick things off. So on June 21 1964, three young people, James Chaney, Mickey
Schwerner and Andy Goodman were a part of a Southern Pilgrimage. They joined with over 1000 young people from across the country to
become a part of a movement to disrupt Jim Crow and register African American voters in Mississippi. On the first day of their arrival, they were abducted by the Ku Klux Klan, basically and murdered for their efforts. The abduction was so serious, it took 44 days to discover their bodies and another 41 years to hold the lead perpetrator to account for it due to the white
supremacist system in place there, including the deputy sheriff who was involved in this entire fiasco. And their murder really
galvanized the country and captured the nation’s attention of what was going on in Mississippi. There was obviously a very
robust civil rights movement already taking place at the time. But when a young people were
coming in from the north, that didn’t look like the
Mississippi as necessarily and there was murders being
streamed into living rooms. Across the country, people really started to pay attention in a different way about the need for desegregation. Three weeks after their murder, the Civil Rights Act was
finally passed into law. It had been languishing. So it really helped to establish the kind of like popular will and tipping point to get there. And a year later civil rights
workers again linked arms in Selma, Alabama, in
a voting rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This time to call into question the needs to pass the Voting Rights Act, the most important
civil rights legislation that this nation has ever enacted in 1965. And when they marched
across the bridge again, the nation was called to pay
attention to the violence that was met upon them. And you have this is a picture
of Congressman John Lewis, who was then the 25 year old chairman of this students statewide snick, and the Student Nonviolent
Coordination Committee. And he there was so much violence that there was horses, there were whips, there was tear gas, Bhutan’s, et cetera. A police officer cracked his skull. And this event was later
dubbed Bloody Sunday, and a month later the Voting Rights Act that had been kind of just sitting around, there was so much protest
going on at the time but it was finally introduced. Again, this is a story
of youth led resistance. Here’s the Reverend Martin Luther King looking very proud at the ceremony. And what I think is so
powerful about this story is that young people were
extraordinarily involved in the civil rights movement, the nation’s second reconstruction. And we forget that piece of
the story a lot of the time. And that really kind of started with this 1960 desegregation sit in that was led by four very brave freshmen from North Carolina A&T
University out of Greensboro. And this inspired a movement
of thousands of young people across the south to start to
become part of the sit in. This is 1960 right and so this started to kick things off into the 60s. And, again, this is a an
example of how young people at the time, we’re so active in all of the various
movements of the day. The Women’s Rights
Movements, Chicano rights, Native American movements,
The Anti War Movement and this ground was really
kind of made fertile throughout the 60s of
this organizing impulse that young people had,
and that the campuses were became this very
kind of nurturing space for this type of activity. And finally, in 1971,
young people who have been a part of this movement and
leading major portions of it, they finally fought
for their own franchise and their own right to vote with the ratification
of The 26th Amendment. And in this way, I think
of The 26th Amendment as an integral part and natural expansion of the second reconstruction. Often times when we
discuss The 26th Amendment, people think of it as an amendment that came around during
the fight for Vietnam because there was endless war and there was a mandatory draft. That is all true, but
that organizing effort would not have been established had it not been four young
people across the country already being active on campus and understanding the context of how all this stuff was happening, both abroad and then at home. So a little bit about me. My name is Yael. My background is in community organizing. I use that to inform my
approach to litigation and my involvement advocacy and to support social justice movements. I am currently Chief
Counsel for voting rights for the Andrew Goodman Foundation. The Andrew Goodman foundation
is named after Andy Goodman, who was murdered during Freedom Summer. And it’s an organization
that’s on campuses across the country. We’re also litigating in the courts around student voting rights, and its mission is to make youth voices and votes a powerful force in democracy. And the way that I came about to this work is from organizing, very
much kind of a personally inspired effort. I’m an immigrant to this country, I naturalized about
six or seven years ago. My mother’s from the former Soviet Union, my father’s from Lithuania, I’m a grandchild of the Holocaust, my ancestors, every generation
suffered persecution and I was born in Brazil,
all my family lives in Israel and I was raised in the United States. So when I look at this background and I see the rise of
fascism in America today, and the normalization of hate and efforts to obstruct rule of law, this, you know, makes
me think of all of these other experiences of what has happened and what is happening across the world. So I just wanted to provide
a little bit of context for the ways in which
I see this obstruction to the ballot affected today. And when I was a community
organizer in college, you know, I was astounded by the ways
in which access to the ballot for young people, which
is the most fundamental democratic right in America
is just taken away from them. And after doing constitutional
litigation for many years on different areas of constitutional law, equal protection, gender rights,
for free speech, et cetera, I came back to this and I thought, why are we not litigating
The 26th Amendment? Why doesn’t anybody know about it? Right, so before today and maybe
before seeing advertisement for this event, be honest, who has heard of The 26th Amendment? Okay, that’s pretty good. Maybe I have a self selected crowd. – Who doesn’t? (laughs) – So this amendment is
largely a forgotten amendment. When I talk to a regular crowd, you know, we know about the First Amendment, we know about the second, the 14th the 19th for women’s suffrage but The 26th Amendment kind
of sits there in the Abyss and people have just forgotten about it. And you know what the
judiciary has as well, in the 70s, after its ratification, it was ratified in 1971. Seven years after its ratification, it went through the
state and federal courts all the way up to the Supreme Court. In the 80s, zero litigation,
90 zero litigation, early 2000s nothing. It’s only after the evisceration
of the Voting Rights Act through Shelby and also the 2008 election, which we saw a sweep of
voter suppression bills go across the country,
that The 26th Amendment started to be included as a
cause of action within lawsuits. But even then it was just
slapped on the at the end of it, and there was no
discussion about it itself. So I believe that the
reason that we forgotten about The 26th Amendment
and we don’t think about youth voting rights within
a traditional voting rights framework is because the
judiciary has forgotten about it, the people have forgotten about it and it’s just not a muscle
that we’ve learned to flex. And as a result of that,
there’s so many opportunities for thinking about and deconstructing ways in which access to the
ballot for young people, specifically manifests. And so in 1971, young people
finally hit a tipping point because of the mobilization
of the campuses. And this is an example of
this youth franchise coalition that quickly formed in just six weeks, it spread to 300 campuses
in all 50 states. And it was a youth led movement and then it had a lot of the
national legacy organizations also join on board many of
which are still around today to support it. So it’s just the kind
of like the rapid fire of once you get to a tipping
point what starts to look like. So what is The 26th Amendment? So the first clause of it
says that the right to vote shall not be denied or
abridged for those over the age of 18 on account of age. It lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 but in addition, it created
this anti discrimination, anti age discrimination language
in accessing the franchise. So we think about it as the
youth voting rights amendment. And that is true, but there’s
very little litigation around that. And I can see a way in
which in the future, this amendment is brought
on behalf of elder people, for example, in accessing
the ballot as well. Just like the 19th amendment, you know, was on account of sex, right, but then we kind of broadened it out. It wasn’t just about women’s rights, it was anti discrimination in terms of sex based discrimination in general. What’s so powerful about this amendment is that the nation really came together in rapid fire speed once
this tipping point was hit. And just to give a little context, it had been introduced
over 150 times in Congress over a 30 year period
before it got to this point. Sometimes we think that,
you know, we’ll just fight and we’ll get there and that’s
just not the truth of it. We need the popular will
we need the resistance, we need efforts that are
happening outside of the halls of Congress, outside of
the halls of the Judiciary to get it pushed. And what’s really
remarkable about the speed by which the amendment
ended up being ratified by the time that it was introduced in 1971 is that the nation really came together, it passed the Senate 94 to zero and the house nearly
unanimously 401 to 19, right. Really hard to imagine that
type of consensus today and it rounded Congress and the states the requisite 38 states to be ratified in less than 100 days. This is the quickest amendment
to be ratified in US history and because of large part was
because of the cross partisan basis of it. And so one of my hopes for the amendment is that it can be seen
as a unifying force, whereas voting rights has
become so hyper polarized and hyper politicized. I think that there’s a
lot of potential for age in this and I’ll talk
about that in a minute. Some of the folks that really held it up in terms of champions the amendment was President Eisenhower, Nixon. Nixon actually signed it during
the ceremonial certification for the amendments have come into law. And you know, he said that young people serve a high moral purpose
in protecting our democracy because the values of democracy
as a nation ebbs and flows, and young people would be
the protectors of that. President Nixon. I think we need to remember
that cross partisan history when we talk about youth voting rights. And so going back to why I think that age can really help to bridge a gap in terms of the Voting Rights
jurisprudence, you know, other areas of constitutional law, they’re considered suspect classes, and they’re provided heightened scrutiny. And those are areas that
are fixed and cannot change. So race, national origin, gender is constructed in that way as well. Age is fixed, we cannot
change the age that we are at a present time. But unlike the other suspect classes, age also changes over time. So all people can realize
that they were young at some point, and you can
talk to anyone across the aisle and they don’t want their
individual right to vote to be suppressed. So I really think that
maybe it’s too optimistic. But I do think that we can
kind of we need to share this cross partisan history
about youth voting rights. And I can tell you a little
bit behind the scenes, when we’re litigating these issues and when we’re pushing them forward, it doesn’t look good for anyone to be suppressing the youth vote. That does not play to the base, the same way other types
of dog whistle politics do. So The 26th Amendment is
not a standalone right, it’s a part of the evolution
of the right to vote. And this slide kind of
helps us remember that, stemming back from The 13th Amendment during the first reconstruction. And the other thing
that I think is helpful from this slide is when you look at the right, these are all of the Voting
Rights related amendments. When you look at this, you can
see that they’re introduced in batches around the nation’s
reconstructions, right. And in some ways, for example,
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of
1965, Fair Housing Act of 1968 those are not amendments,
but they were new ways in which we interpreted the promises held within The 14th Amendment
that went back to 1868. So it took 100 years for
us to enact legislation to uphold The 14th Amendment. And I think that this is really the power of capitalizing on times
of national crisis, to push through ratification
of new amendments in batches and also to
reimagine amendments that we’ve already won, and think about the ways
in which we can advocate for legislation to uphold those promises. And lets be very clear that
advocacy happens in the streets, it doesn’t happen within
the halls of congress. We have to build the
popular will around this. So shifting gears for a moment
to the way we see this today, the unfulfilled promise
of The 26th Amendment. There’s a myriad of ways in
which youth voting rights manifest today that we
just are not accustomed to looking at and they’re not researched, and they’re not quantified. And even when I was developing
my legal scholarship on this topic, I would
go and I would present to you constitutional
professors and litigators and they would say to me,
I never thought about this. And my kid is in college
and they came to me and they told me this happened to them and this happened to them. And yes, of course, that’s a
voting rights infringement. Now, it’s so clear to me that it is but it just didn’t naturally occur to me that that was happening to
them because they were young. And so a part of this
kind of popular campaign that I’m trying to endeavor
is for people to understand and popularized the concept
of the 26th amendments so that we remember it
and as soon as we do, we can start to become drum
majors for social justice and we could call it out when we see it. And I do believe that
that will start to push eventually, the courts and the legislators to understand what this looks like. But that has to happen, you know, among people, everyday citizens. And before I go into kind of the various specific special burdens, this is language that is
from the Senate report that sent the amendment to ratification and it sent it to the
states for ratification. And what it provides is
that forcing young people to undertake special burdens, I want you to remember that language. Such as obtaining absentee ballots or traveling to one centralized
location in each city, in order to exercise their right to vote might well serve to dissuade
them from participating in that election. And this language goes on to say and also it can be interpreted
as a violation of the intent of the Voting Rights Act of
1965 and The 14th Amendment. So even though we had these rights baked into The 14th Amendment, and baked into the voting rights of 1965, and also provided as a 1970 amendment to the Voting Rights Act, which was too long of a
story for me to go into here, we still had to circle back and fight for this specific ratification with regard to the youth vote. Okay, so special burdens today and I’m gonna go through
this just a bit quickly. The first one I wanna discuss
is issues of residency. There’s an organized
myth that young people don’t have the right to vote
from their college addresses and therefore they must do extra things to prove their right to vote. In Alabama we see this in
New Hampshire, we see this. And what that looks like is for example, an out of state student
having to come on campus or maybe an in State student that’s maybe from an urban community who would not otherwise drive and having to get an in
state driver’s license or a vehicle registration card in order to prove the
right to vote from campus. Keep in mind that in 1979, the Supreme Court upheld
students right to vote from their campus addresses
that was four decades ago. And yet we’re seeing these
myths being propagated today. There’s other ways in
which this also manifests like your financial aid will be threatened or your parents tax implications et cetera will be upset through this process. But that is a violation
of the fundamental right of the students to vote. The second way, the second
type of special burden is along with the string of
voter identification laws that we saw, such as they
were work shopped by Alec like a small group of
folks that pioneered these and start to spread
them across the country. So they all basically
had the same language as bills that were not
written by politicians, by elected representatives is
a strict voter identification laws that specifically impact students. So for example, in Tennessee, this is an issue in
Tennessee and in Texas, you actually cannot vote with
a student identification card. But in Tennessee you can vote with, a faculty member can vote
with their faculty ID card issued by the same institution,
but a student cannot vote with their student ID issued
from that institution. And in Texas, you can vote
with your handgun license, but you can’t vote with your student ID. So let’s just remember what
the purpose of voter ID is, is that you prove that you
are who you say you are and there’s nothing else
that voter ID is meant to be. So these these types of restrictions are kind of surgically maneuvered
to exclude students access to the ballot. And in other states such as in Wisconsin, they allow you to vote
using a student voter ID. But the way in which
they’ve maneuvered that law is that your student ID can
be no more than two years old. So if you’re a college student,
you have to go back, right. And some people take five, six years, or even if you’re a grad student, you have to keep going back, remember to keep going
back every two years to get a new voter identification. I’m litigating that case now in Wisconsin. And the next other the
third form of special burden is this issue with regard
to access to polling places. So why is there not
polling places on campuses? Why? It doesn’t make sense
the students live there. It’s accessible to them. What is the administrative
burden of putting them in place? I’m not necessarily advocating that every campus mandates
having a polling place, I think that’s a hyper local
decision that has to be made. But why are they not more
uniformly distributed? Just does not make sense. In Florida, there was a state policy that outright barred the allowance of treating college campuses
as early voting sites. They just said you just can’t do it. On election day, you could actually but during the early voting period when they know that young
people are coming out to vote, they said, no, no, you can’t do it. So Andrew Goodman Foundation, the League of Women Voters
of Florida, we sued. And we overturn that we won
a preliminary injunction that will now be in place for 2020. It was a major win, it was based on a 26th
Amendment framework, as is the Wisconsin case, actually, which is an ongoing litigation. And the preliminary injunction
we won was in July 2018. So basically there were three months before the midterm election,
to push for polling places on campus to advocate for it and ended up applying to 12
locations in just three months, which is pretty good. But now we have a lead
time to go up to 2020. We hope to see much
more of the spread of it across the state in
just those three months, through these 12 new polling places that young people could
avail themselves of, 60000 people participated
to vote in those locations. So to put that number into context, because it always helps
to have a counterpoint of what that means, the
statewide senatorial race was decided by 10000 voters. So it was a sixth of
this new expanded base. The statewide gubernatorial
race in that race in that election was decided
by approximately 30000 voters. So it was the equivalent of
half of this new voting base. And we hope that leading up to 2020 we’ll see much more of this and it’s also helpful because
this is a good case study to analyze, you know, from zero to start the impact of spreading these policies. So very quickly the last
two that I’ll touch on, and there’s so much more
room here to study, really. So this is my article really tries to just set a new
framework for how we think about these obstructions today, but there’s just so much
more for us to go into. Is campus gerrymanders, for
local state and federal races, how are our representative lines cut up? And how do they cut up through campuses? So one of the ways in which
you start to study this is kind of related to number three, which is access to polling places. If they’re not on campus
then where are they? And if students are being sent
to multiple polling places, the chances are that means
that there’s a gerrymander, but there’s been no 26th
Amendment gerrymander case ever brought yet. And this is not a robust area of study and when I say it’s not
robust, I mean, it’s like zero. So this is an opportunity for research and it’s an opportunity for re-conceiving and re-conceptualizing
how The 26th Amendment can be applied to uphold
youth voting rights. So this fifth piece with
regard to the treatment of provisional ballots, I almost
feel like I should reorder these and put this as number one, because the treatment
of provisional ballots we don’t really we just vote provisionally if when we, you know, and at the polls, and we assume that that’s
gonna be a safe backstop and I would never tell somebody
not to vote provisionally. If that is your backstop, you do it coz you don’t
have another choice. And we need to have a paper trail of how these ballots are treated. But the provisional ballot means that you have engaged
in the voter process, the election administration
process step by step and at the end of the day when you show up at the polling place for whatever reason, your name is not on the ballot. I’ve spoken to a ton of young people who have registered to vote and they show up at their polling place and for whatever reason,
like the young woman we watched earlier on the film there, they’re just not on the rolls
for one reason or another due to clerical error,
administrative error, et cetera. And so, at the end, they’re
told to vote provisionally. So when we look at the provisional ballots and the over reliance
of provisional ballots by young people, it helps us to understand the ways in which the other
structural pieces failed. That particular pool, right the over reliance on provisional ballots. In the 2016 race, one in four millennial reported having to vote provisionally. And if you compare that to
baby boomers, the number was 6% and members of the
greatest generation was 3%. So there is a radical over reliance on provisional ballots by young people. That number just means the over reliance, it doesn’t mean whether or
not that provisional ballot ended up being counted
at the end of the day. Also another room ripe
for research and analysis and because we don’t think
about youth voting rights in a traditional voting rights framework, we don’t have those type of numbers yet. But there’s just so much here. And the other thing to keep in mind, in addition to all of this, which is kind of like the untold secret about provisional ballots,
is that in 22 states, if you cast your provisional
ballot in the wrong location, for one reason or another,
it is completely rejected. It is a full rejected ballot. So when you have young
people and campus lines that are cut up, and
young people are confused as a result of that,
and their friend says, oh, you’re in this stream,
okay, come with me. I’m gonna go vote. Let’s just go to this polling location. And if that polling location doesn’t happen to be the one where your friend is not assigned to it is possible that your
vote will not be counted. Now is that is this I’m seeing
this is like surprising. The reason it’s surprising is because there’s no notification that’s provided to people when their ballots are not counted. Now, my message here is not
that you should not be voting provisional ballot,
because we need to be able to track this. But we have to understand
how this system operates and the over reliance and likelihood that young people’s ballot
specifically will be thrown away. So this is the exciting part, is that we get to craft this jurisprudence and we get to craft a
popular education project around this issue to win our rights. And again, times of national crisis allow for us to push
through new amendments you know, I can talk about new amendments like Professor McLean and
I are working on an effort to push the 28th amendment
to overturn citizens united. Times of national crisis
are a great opportunity to push through new amendments in batches, or to re-conceptualize
the rights protected and amendments previously
ratified into law. And my theory of social change is that with organizing
advocacy and litigation, this three prongs, that this is actually how we kind of start to get there and these prongs have to inform each other and not take place in a vacuum. Why is this important right now? The 2020 election is quickly approaching, the primaries right around the corner. The general election is
also around the corner. It’s only in nine months, it’s gonna be here before we know it. That’s gonna trigger a census, which will trigger a
redistricting process. So we have to be vigilant about what that redistricting
process looks like for our campus communities. And this also coincides
with the 50th anniversary of The 26th Amendment,
which is a year from July, it’s 17 months from now. And so this is a wonderful opportunity to seize the moment of what
the history of youth power has provided what the history
of youth led movements have provided and recognize
that we are in a moment. And why do we not know
that the 50th anniversary of The 26th Amendment is coming up? We know that it’s the centennial
of the 19th amendment, that’s awesome. I’m a big champion of that. But this needs to also be lifted. And it is a great
opportunity for us to reflect on the ways in which the
promises of the amendment have yet to be fulfilled
and how we can start to get there so that we’re not you know, at the hundred at the
centennial looking back and saying why are we not there yet? So we know that young
people are being silenced and this is really an opportunity for us to start to conceptualize it within a traditional voting rights lens that they’re not just
some kind of cast away or that we don’t think about it in terms of a voting rights framework. And remember that this is
going to take a lot of work to get there but again, the only way that we’re gonna get there
is if we’re organizing and we’re working in
collaboration with each other. These things are not gonna happen easily and I don’t wanna paint a picture that Oh, our votes are being suppressed and therefore we should not be voting. No, we should be voting because we know that our votes are being taken
away from us for a reason, and that young people have always led social justice movements, not just during the second reconstruction, during the first reconstruction Alexander Hamilton, one
of the nation’s founders. He was in his early 20s. Alice Paul was 23 years old when she got involved in the movement for women’s suffrage. Who else do I have? Frederick Douglass, he
was in his early 20s, when he made his speech at the Massachusetts anti
slavery society meeting and went on, of course to Pioneer
the abolitionist movement. So young people have always
been a part of the story of America and I think
that we need to nurture their efforts today as
their leading efforts for gun control, climate
change, black lives and immigrant lives and we
need to marry those movements with access to the ballot as well. That’s all I have. (audience clapping) – Okay, so I’m gonna ask a few questions before opening it up to the audience. So while I’m asking these questions, try to think of some that
you have on your own. So my first question is, in 2018, after North Carolina finally voted to levy their restrictions on private colleges, ID cards, a Duke student
was quoted in the Chronicle saying, as Duke students get used to just carrying around their phone, I don’t think the Board of Elections would allow us to use the digital ID as a valid form of identification. So the challenge is that as Duke pushes towards these digital platforms, how do we encourage students
to use their real IDs? I think my question is,
first, can you discuss, you touched on briefly,
why ideas are needed and to what extent they’re needed? And why some forms are excluded? And then secondly, do you
think that the election board has instead responsibility to keep up with the growing technology age? And do you think that as we advance towards more technology that they have a responsibility to keep
up in order to encourage younger people to come out and vote. – This is a really great question and I believe that eventually, our understanding of
constitutional rights, specifically in the voting rights realm will have to include expanded
access to the franchise. Right now, we don’t have that. There are many ways in
which tech can be used to expand access, which
is kind of common sense, such as providing for
election day registration, or same day registration, online voter registration,
automatic voter registration, when you go to the DMV that
you should automatically be provided the right to vote. That’s in terms of an opt out policy rather than you have to kind
of affirmatively provide it. There are ways in which we
can treat expanded tech. There’s to me, there’s about
I think the latest number is about 12 or 13 states that provide for election
day registration. I hope that one day we
can get the judiciary to understand that if it’s
possible for states to prove that you are who you say you are, and you live where you say you live at a moment’s notice, due to
the expansion of technology, that those are not decisions that should be left up to legislators, that that is a constitutional right that should be read within the state and the federal constitution
that is a constitutional right. We need to adapt our
constitutional analysis to keep up with evolving technology. If I call my insurance company, they know everything
on me instantaneously, but somehow we can’t use this tech to uphold the right to vote. Now I say this with the
caveat that online voting is not the direction
that we need to go in. And that’s proved because of hacking and we need paper based systems for voting machines, et cetera. So we need a smart way to use
technology that is trackable. But going back to your specific question around student voter identification, it is unfathomable to me why student IDs are not uniformly used. And for example, the
example I gave for Tennessee that a faculty ID card is used, but not a student ID issued
from the same university and in most states, well, I don’t know if I
can say in most states, but in many states student
IDs are not included at all. And then when they are, it’s
like the Wisconsin Law right, where it’s only two years old. – Okay, so kind of deviating away from, I guess, student access to the ballot. 27% of Durham residents have either less than a high school diploma or a GED or just a high school diploma. So how do we ensure that this demographic obtains the same rights guaranteed to them by The 26th Amendment
if they’re not enrolled in a university or college program, given that a lot of tactic
to expand young voter turnout are based on those programs? So how do we make sure that
it’s not a right guaranteed just by students in academia? – So yeah, when a lot of my work so far has focused on students
as a proxy for youth when we talk about access to the ballot within a 26th Amendment framework, there’s so much more here to look at. Like the impact of the
criminal justice system on young people specifically. There’s ways in which we
can overlay these analysis and start to explore them. But I think that there’s also for example, in the Monster Law, one of the
provisions of the Monster Law that they cut was a very
popular pre registration program to pre-register 16 and 17
year olds in the high schools. And actually it was such a great program. It brought the county registrar’s into the high schools
as well to be a part of a kind of fusion civics program. And that provision was
so popular for so long that they cut it. But when you look at the numbers, but when you look at the
numbers in just three years, it registered 160000, 16 and 17 year olds. And now it is that law
is back on the books and the latest statistics
that I saw on that is that 39% of eligible high schoolers are pre registered to vote. So I think that we need
to continue to nurture what that program is
supposed to provide for and do a lot of outreach
on the high school level. And nurturing civics
and voter registration within a civics curriculum itself. The studies show that
voting is habit forming, and that the earlier your vote, the more likely you are to do next time and as you grow older. And that just makes
sense because you know, you go to the polling station
and now you understand the process and it’s less abstract. – Okay, so another question
that I have is in June of 2019 I remember being like on
the hill and hearing about when the Supreme Court found
that North Carolina’s partisan gerrymandering was indeed
not unconstitutional, despite the common cause
evidence and saying that it would give an like advantage
to non Hispanic whites and Republicans. But we know that it’s also a common tactic to split up college campuses, as you said, to gain political advantage. And then Dukes last midterm election, students couldn’t vote on campus. Some students had to vote at
different polling locations which was very confusing
for a lot of students. So do you think that if
we use The 26th Amendment that maybe the Supreme Court
would see the importance of ruling against gerrymandering and ensuring that we uphold our democracy? – Yeah, I think that in many ways, The 26th Amendment gives us a lens to think about the
rights that were afforded through The 14th Amendment. And through evolution
of the right to vote, but specifically applied for young people. And we haven’t like I said, we haven’t had a gerrymander case come
up yet that’s focused on The 26th Amendment
that’s really examining the impact on the local level. And a part of that is also
looking at the various kind of layers of the onion of how this impacts young people. If it’s voter ID, if it’s the location of the polling stations, if it’s the myths that are propagated about your right to vote, it’s almost like it’s a scatter shot, that young people just
they’re so confused. They don’t know what to do. They’re sent in a million directions. Sometimes they’re given
the wrong information and that can be very
disempowering, you know. But there is a power to movements and there’s a power to us working together to try to solve that problem and see it as an opportunity for growth. And so that’s what I’m hoping, like I said that the amendment hasn’t really been
litigated in recent history, we have the Florida
presidential case that we won. We have now in Wisconsin
that’s starting to percolate. I do believe that with the
increase of youth turnout in 2018, for example, young people voted at unprecedented rates, so we’re gonna see more and more engagement. And we’re also gonna see different ways in which suppression manifests. So just to give an example of
the increase in youth voting, which is all statistics
and polls are showing that it’s on track to be just
as unprecedented in 2020. And anyone who’s paying attention
to what’s going on today, intuitively knows that as well. We don’t need to look at
the polls to show that. But in the 2018 race young voting doubled in the midterm election and
in some states it increased anywhere from seven to
20 percentage points, which really changes the outcome of races. It’s an election
determinative demographic. And the numbers that
I provided for Florida are an example of that. I don’t know if I gave
the numbers for Wisconsin and the voter ID law that we’re fighting. But the voter ID piece is so important because young people will have
their student IDs with them, no matter what compared to other ideas. And then in Wisconsin, just as an example, through the public
schools and the colleges, there’s 300000 young people
who now a lot of them can’t use their student IDs to vote. But remember that in the 2018 raise, Wisconsin was decided by
less than 23000 votes. So young people really have an opportunity to change elections and to
have a significant impact. – Yeah, so building upon that,
and this my last question and then I’ll shut up and let
y’all answer other askers. But how do you think that, I guess, given the history that you presented like, right before Congressman
Elijah Cummings died, like, I remember him looking
at the cohort of interns I was with on the hill. And he was like saying to us, like, “I know that you’re looking
at all these problems, “and you’re looking up to us
thinking that we’re the ones “to solve them, but we’re
really depending upon you.” And I was sitting in my chair like, yikes. So how do you think that
students and young people, despite all this widening
parties in this that’s happening, can come together, and
demand that parties fight for things that are important to them? And given that our generation
is increasingly independent, do you see this as a dividing
force or a unifying force? – I think it’s a unifying force. I think that the history
of The 26th Amendment bears out this cross partisan basis. And that in addition to that young people are shooing traditional
party affiliations, they’re increasingly independent voters. And so we have to kind
of demand as young people a seat at the table. And that is, the only
way we’re gonna do that is if we’re actually voting
otherwise the decisions are gonna be made for us. And we are the ones that
we’ve been waiting for. Young people have always
been at the forefront of movements for social
change and justice. And the nation’s history shows that and we have to just
continue to remember that because there’s so much
negativity that’s thrown at us and I say us because I am the last year of the millennial (laughs) generation. So I include myself, but
we are the people that we have been waiting for
and the the youth base is only going to continue
to be increasingly diverse and increasingly independent. And so at some point, regardless, the numbers will hit a tipping point. For example, if you
look at the voting rates of baby boomers and an older they vote, well, let me put it this way,
in the 2016 and 2018 race was the first time that
the age demographics for those below the baby
boomers became a larger part of the electorate compared to
the baby boomers plus, right. So now everyone below baby boomer, we are a part of the majority
of the voting electorate, but we don’t vote at the same rates. So baby boomers plus vote
at 64% of their demographic and everyone below them votes
at 46% of their demographic. When you chew those numbers
up, what that tells you is that if we were to
vote at the same rate, that that would be a increase
of 43 million new voters. Okay. Now, if you look at the
average electoral margin in the last five presidential elections, is it five was the last year
five presidential elections since 2000, the average electoral margin is something like 5.3 million. So, we have, I wanna make sure that I have that number right. It was, oh, I took it out of here. That’s so annoying. No, it was 43 million. It was 43 million compared to 5.3. We have the power, we have the potential we just need to get out there. – So given that I know that you all know that early voting has started. In addition I’m working the career office and there’s always registration of their people from You Can Vote are here. So if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to them. But I’ll run around with this
microphone if anyone has any. – Hi, I’m Miller. Something that has been
really sitting with me heavily as we get into
this presidential election is how people are talking
about people who didn’t vote in the last election. Kind of thinking about like
blaming and guilting people and I’m just wondering, like,
what would you recommend when trying to empower people but also I mean it there’s
something to be said about blaming people for
who didn’t vote definitely, but that’s not in my
opinion the best way to try and get them to change their actions and so what kind of
things would you recommend saying or speaking to people about? – Yeah, so I’m really glad that you asked that question actually, because we can look at voter suppression. And we could look at the
flood of money in politics and kind of analyze the
problem from that perspective. But about half of the base
of the voter eligible base did not turn out roughly half. And so we need to I’m invoking
Stacey Abrams call to action to overwhelm the system, we
need to just go and vote, we don’t have an option. I think that the last election
is a really great example of what happens when people don’t vote that they determine the
outcome of elections as well. And it depends on who I’m talking to and what their particular area
of interest is for example. But you know, everyone focuses
on like the high level races like president or, you know, Congress, sometimes they focus on it, often times they don’t know
what’s going on down the ballot. Those elections are actually
so critically important on a local level. That people just don’t know it. So I would encourage
telling them about it. For example, if you are in, I’m not sure about like
specific local politics in North Carolina, but I
know that you have elections for the judiciary. If you have elections for the
district attorney’s office, they have the prosecutorial
discretion in cases to decide how people should be prosecuted and potentially criminalized. The Freeholder races, if that
applies in North Carolina, they’re the ones nobody
like knows what these are. But they’re the ones that
determine whether or not to accept money for detention centers from the federal government that would end up going generally to private prison contractors. And so these are decisions that are made on a more local level, that I
think that when people think about just whether or
not their vote counts on a presidential
election, they might think, Oh, I’m just one vote, et cetera. But a lot of these votes I have clients, I have candidates that run and they win by like four votes, right. By how we treat the provisional ballots ends up going to the provisionals, right. These are election outcome
determinative races and they are really
important on a local level. So I just tell the people
that are not voting that they basically effectively are voting for the status quo if
they’re not participating in the system. – I’m also really glad you
said that because 95 elections in North Carolina, and I think 2016 were decided by five votes. So once again. – Hello, I’m Emma, thank
you for coming here to speak tonight. I think during the presentation, you mentioned something
about like coalition building or like the overlap between
like voting rights for women and voting rights for people of color and not voting
discrimination based on age. I was curious if you do anything
with like disability rights or if there’s any overlap
or coalition building with like disability rights
for people being able to vote. – You just have to give
me a little context Emma for what do you mean by civility rights? (murmurs) Oh, disability rights? Yeah, there’s a great Disability Rights voting rights community that
is active that look at ways in which we need to make sure
that differently abled people in general regardless of what that means, that studies election administration specifically for the disabled
and so they really look at it. It’s not an area that I
specifically can claim an expertise in, but I do
know that they’re very strong. And they are involved in this and I know that even in terms
of there’s a Bard Campus, which is a private school
in upstate New York, not too far from New York City. Their polling place is
like 500 square feet and so the ability to
navigate that polling place if you’re a differently abled person, makes it extraordinarily difficult. Nevertheless, you know,
like for everyone else, for 500 square feet area. So I do think that there
are ways in which we can like, start to analyze and
expand access to the ballot for differently abled people. And I think it depends on
the personal situation like, there might be more reliance
on absentee balloting for example, depending on
what that particular person is dealing with. – Any other students before
we have faculty, okay. – You can tell I’m out of student here. – Thanks. My name is Magdalena. I was curious are there any recent laws that have passed about student voting that really gives you hope for the future? – Yes, thank you. I think that we need to develop a gold standard federal bill,
I really believe in that. Even if we don’t think
that’s going to pass, I’d like to kind of develop one. But when we look at certain measures, like Election Day
registration, for example, that disproportionately
impacts young people and young voters and boosts youth turnout. So I would really look
to measures like that, like Election Day registration,
the pre registration program that’s in North Carolina that I think maybe needs more support to
that’s now back on the books. That’s a really great model as well. And there’s a program that’s being piloted out of California, which I love, which I would love to see more expanded on where it’s so common sense you wonder why we don’t already have it That when young people
so California permits for online voter registration. And when young people go to
re-register every semester for their classes, they’re
automatically provided an opportunity to register online to vote. That’s like common sense. This is also going back
to the prior question about access to technology. I think that that’s a really great model but again, there’s no silver bullet, for example, for online
voter registration, it means that it generally means that you have to have an
in state driver’s license in order to register online. So you’re not gonna capture
the entire universe. But that’s why we need kind of like a gold standard multi
prong approach to this as well. – I was noting the data that you showed about the bipartisan
support for the amendment. It’s kind of stunning at this day and age and I don’t think Congress would agree that the sun rises in the
east and sets in the west at those levels. But I think there was something different than to and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the data would
show that youth in the 70s were much more conservative
than they are now. And though you’re right that youth are increasingly independent, they’re also increasingly liberal. Look at Bernie Sanders
51% of the youth vote in New Hampshire. I think the data is pretty clear on that. I guess my point is, there’s
a reason for all of this. There’s a reason in 1970
that there was bipartisanship because I think maybe both parties felt that it wouldn’t hurt them. And there’s a clear
reason today why one party is suppressing youth voting
because of the nature of youth not partisanship, but ideology. Is that fair? – I haven’t studied that. I would be interested to see what the kind of political
makeup of the students in the 70s were and compare that to today. It’s an Interesting question. But what I find is that when we’re talking about state bills, maybe, but we don’t have student
identification cards universally provided in terms
of a form of ID in general, even in blue states. And when we talk about
access to polling stations and where polling stations are located, that also happens in blue states and it also happens in blue districts. And so I think that the
fear is that young people will disrupt the status quo, regardless of party affiliation. And that that and I
understand where we see partisanship today on this
and I cannot deny that. But I also see it
happening across the aisle. And I think that it’s
because there’s a fear that young people will upset the system and upset the status quo. And I think that the way
that we overcome that and people may have
certain feelings about this is by remembering why the
amendment was ratified and that’s why I love talking
about the Nixon quote, that young people serve
a high moral purpose because the nation’s values
always undergo ebbs and flows. That the young people
are supposed to provide a moral compass. And therefore, if we are
living in a democracy, that young people are
critical to making sure that the democratic process is upheld and again, I see that happening
across partisan lines. The issue of the Bard Campus, for example, is in upstate New York, right. So yeah, thank you for your question. – Hey, my name is Toby. I have a quick question. For a lot of people on this college campus this is the first time
they’re gonna be voting in a major election, anyone
between 18 and 21 years old. And for a lot of people, they’re not actually
even from North Carolina. So there’s a lot of like
discouraging factors for people to get involved
in North Carolina politics. So what do we what do
we say to those people who really feel that they have no place of getting involved in
politics North Carolina, or if they wanna get involved
in politics back home since this might be new to them, how to get them involved in that, too? – Yeah, so thanks Toby. Like the Supreme Court decided in 1979, they upheld a case that came out of Prairie View A&M University, that young people do
have the right to vote from their college campuses. So if they wanna vote from campus, they have a fundamental right to do so. If they wanna vote from where
they’re from originally, like their parents address
because they believe that they’re going to be returning
to that address et cetera they also have the right
to vote from there. They don’t have the right
to vote from two places, but they can vote from
one or from the other. And what I would say to
that is because the question also touches on another
question that I often get asked, which is why should students
have the right to vote from their college addresses
if they’re gonna live there for four or five years, right. Like they’ll, you know, they’re coming in they’re outsiders, et cetera. So it’s the same question
that you’re providing, but it’s kind of flipped
from a counter narrative. And my argument is that
on the local level, when you come to school,
there are certain things that you’re going to be
availing yourselves of and certain rights that
you’re going to want to be able to have like
access to affordable housing, you know, access to a woman’s right to autonomy of their body. There are certain things
that you’re going to want avail yourself of. Access to financial aid
potentially depending on what your particular circumstances and your tuition rates are
going into the tax base of the state and your rent
is going into the tax pace on the local level. So you are paying into a system that should be protecting you. And if you’re not voting in that system because somebody is taking it away, or you’re taking it away from yourself, then you’re being taxed
without being represented and that’s fundamentally anti American. – So just a quick point here, this is such a rich discussion, I just wanted to add a
comparative dimension and I have some students
from a class here, so forgive me for being redundant but I cannot get off this bigger. The United States now is
138th of 172 democracies in the modern world in our participation. So this is the context in
which we’re talking about this. We are failing terribly and
the reason things are going so badly in the country, I
believe is there are many reasons for that but at base,
there is not participation and people are being actively discouraged, particularly young people
from participation. So I think if we see that we
can really understand things in a much clearer way,
because I think the people who are promoting voter suppression have done a very good job of marketing, photo ID and all these things
and making it sound so normal. But when you put it in that context, that here’s a country
that we pride ourselves on being the modern world’s
first constitutional republic, based on We the People, et cetera, and we’re 138th of 172. I mean, that should be a cause
for national embarrassment. So we should be doing everything we can to do things like you know,
same day registration, boosting youth voting,
the high school programs and all these other things. So I love this discussion. I hope people are going to
get involved in this effort. But really, I think we should do it not least out of like some pride, we should be doing a whole
lot better in participation than we are. – We’ll take one last question. – I can just ask. – Okay. – Thank you for that
comment, I appreciate it. – Hold on just on second
you need the mic, okay. – So I was born in India,
but I’m a US citizen now. And going off of your point
and your earlier question or your earlier point
about access and, you know, having a federal gold
standard around accessibility. Are there any guidelines
at the federal level on how close the polling
station ought to be or what the, you know, minimum,
a maximum of wait times those sorts of issues. So for example, in India,
which is the largest democracy in the world, it’s
constitutionally mandated that a polling station
cannot be any further away than two kilometers. I don’t know if any such
similar thing exists here in the United States, so I was just curious to find out. – That’s so fascinating. We don’t have that. We don’t have that. And I will have to make a
note to include that (laughs) when we draft the gold standard bill. No, we don’t have that in
terms of polling place. Polling place accessibility
is really kind of baked into the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the way that we interpret it and after the Shelby decision, which was a Supreme Court decision that basically eviscerated
a major portion of that law, states have been able
to just move forward. And so we’ve seen unprecedented closures of polling places as a result of that. So we’re moving in the
opposite direction right now. But I do believe that
when we study history, that we see that we are in
a national crisis right now if it’s around rule of law,
or access to the ballot or you know, whatever area
that we wanna look at, we can see in all of the ways in which we are just at a democratic
crisis right now. And this is an opportunity, we have to look at it as an
opportunity and we need to vote and make sure we know who
we’re voting for down the line and take advantage of it
and reimagine what we want. This is an opportunity to dream. – Yeah, I definitely agree. Thank you all so much for your very important
intriguing questions. This is not a conversation that ends here, definitely take this
conversation out anywhere you go. I like to think that like, even if I’m speaking to one person, that’s one vote I could
potentially, you know, encourage. So with that, we’re going
to have Tyler Edwards, wrap up and he’s the Executive Director for Democracy North Carolina. Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry. – I’m the Executive
Director, you can clarify. – Hi everybody, my name is Tyler Walker. I’m the Executive
Coordinator with Democracy NC and come down here. So thank you all for this presentation. This has been amazing. If you guys would indulge me, I’d like to just tell you one story. Hopefully it’ll drive the point home on the value of your vote,
on the value of democracy and also just the value of this work. So, back when I was younger, maybe high school or middle school, my family and I had a
very, very defining moment. We were huddled together in living room of our small apartment, making a decision about whether or not to pay
for hot water or for lights for the third month in a row. I don’t know if anybody’s
ever experienced that. But if you have it is
a extremely humiliating and frustrating experience. And on paper, it wasn’t the type of thing that was supposed to be happening to us. I mean, my mom and dad, they
started their own business. They both worked two jobs,
they were members of the PTA, my dad was a marine, he was an immigrant. And they’re the kindest
people you’ll meet, the first people to extend
the hand out to help you when you needed it. And yet, and yet, there we
were deciding between hot water and lights for the third month in a row. Now, to me, there’s no
clearer sign of a system that isn’t serving the
people it was meant to serve. I mean, there’s no clearer
sign that something’s wrong when good hardworking Americans, no, good hard working people
are struggling just to get by. So my dad, sensing my
frustration, he pulls me aside, he sits me down he tells me
some very important things. The first thing he tells
me is that if you are not at the table you are on the plate. Next thing he tells me is that good things don’t just happen to good people, they happen when good
people make them happen. The last thing he told me
was that you cannot advance your station in this life
without representation in this government. And I knew exactly what he was
trying to get across to me. What he’s trying to explain to me was that because we were black people in a government that historically
underrepresented black and brown people, we were suffering. But there was another thing
he was also trying to tell me, something a little bit more hopeful. It was trying to explain
to me that if I really, really wanted something to change, if I wanted things to be better, that I couldn’t wait
around for somebody else to do the right thing. I couldn’t expect somebody to come help me know I had to stand up
and I had to take back the power given to us in this democracy. That’s the key, democracy. You see, democracy is the great equalizer. All things are laid flat before the vote, from presidents to
billionaires, PTA members and college students, everyone, everyone is equal in the ballot box. And I know, I know, it’s
easier said than done. You watch the news, you
come to rooms like this you hear presentations, where you find out all of these barriers
between you and your rights. But I’m not worried. I’m not worried and the
truth is for the reason why I’m not worried is
that I have faith in you. Yes, you and you and you and
you, I have faith in you. I have this faith because
I understand something that maybe some of you might not know about yourselves just yet. I know that you are leaders. I know that you are the
true leaders of this country not in some distant future,
not when you get older, not when you take that job down the line but right now, in this time
right now, right now, right now with your voice with your vote, you are the most powerful
group in this entire nation. I know that to be true. And if you don’t believe me,
there’s only one clear sign. It’s one point of evidence. You did a whole presentation on it. They’ve been trying to take
your power away from you since the dawn. They don’t want you to exercise what they know you’re capable of. Now, I know. Taking back your rights in this democracy is going to require a little bit more than tuning in to one election, a little bit more than
voting on one issue. It’s going to require
some level of commitment, commitment to time, energy and passion. So that’s why today I’m calling on you not just to be a voter who
votes for voting rights, but to be a leader who leads others to protect voting rights. I’m calling on you to join,
to organize and volunteer with organizations like Democracy NC, like Our Vote Matters, like You Can Vote. I’m calling on you to drag your friend, your cousin, your friend’s
mother’s sister in that order, drag them to the polls
and make your voice heard. This will require some
level of commitment, some expectation of
struggle, but your vote is worth more than your weight in gold. And your future is what’s
hanging in the balance. So I’m gonna tell you all right
now, like my father told me, if you are not at the
table, you are on the plate. If you want good things
to happen to good people, you have to make them happen. And if you want to change
your status in this life, you have to have representation
in this government. So go vote, go vote, Good God, please go vote
and drag every single person you’ve ever met to the polls with you. Thank you all very much. (audience clapping) – So, Tyler, thank you so much. That was awesome. Let me just quickly thank
the awesome colleagues I have in the Hart Leadership Program, Lalita Kaligotla who is doing
a terrific job, thank you. Adam Beyer, thank you so much, Adam. Beth Osteen, for really doing the work to make this conversation happen. And also Yael and Lauren,
if you want to continue the conversation, please come down. And I won’t even try
to top what Tyler said but just to say you do
know what you can do. And you find out by doing
and democracy is a thing, it’s really a verb. And if you know that, you’re gonna join an incredibly interesting and awesome and exciting cohort of people
who will make this place a better place. So thanks so much. (audience clapping)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *