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Norway held its first elections since the Utoya massacre Monday, and the results show a repudiation of the views — and the party — of the man responsible for the carnage.

It’s been seven weeks since anti-immigration zealot Anders Breivik murdered sixty-nine people at a Labor Party youth retreat on the island of Utoya. Yesterday’s results showed 33.2% of voters supporting Labor candidates, giving that party its best result in a municipal election in two decades. The big swing came on the right, however, as the anti-immigrant Progress Party, of which Breivik was a member until 2006, lost more than a third of its support.

With the Progress Party dropping from 18.5% to 11.8% in the polling, most of its support landed with the Conservative Party, which had been losing ground to Progress in recent years. Labor’s 3.6% jump, however, was enough to give it an overall victory.

Youth voting in Norway also took a big step forward yesterday, as twenty-one municipalities were granted permission to lower their voting age to 16 on a trial basis. More than a hundred local governments applied for permission to participate in the trial, which was offered as a first step toward allowing municipalities to reduce the voting age at their own discretion.

Charlie Webster, the state chair of the Maine Republican party, has produced documents claiming to show that over two hundred of the state’s college students have committed fraud by voting in Maine while paying out-of-state tuition.

This is a lie. It’s an evil lie. It’s just … jeez.

Here’s the deal. If you move to Maine for college, you have to pay out-of-state tution your first year. And your second. And your third. And your fourth. And your fifth. You have to pay out-of-state tuition forever, in fact, until you demonstrate that you have “established a Maine domicile for other than educational purposes.”

And as long as you’re attending college full-time, you’ll be “presumed to be in Maine for educational purposes and not to establish a domicile.” Again: Forever.

You can arrive in Maine fresh out of high school, move into your own place, live there 365 days a year. Work there, spend summers there, get married there. Finish your undergraduate degree, go on to grad school. But as long as you’re still a student, you’re “presumed to be in Maine for educational purposes and not to establish a domicile,” and the burden of proof is on you to show otherwise. (“No one factor can be used to establish domicile,” by the way. “All factors and circumstances must be considered on a case-by-case basis.”)

Paying out-of-state tuition isn’t evidence that you don’t live in Maine, in other words. It’s not evidence of anything at all. Out-of-state tuition is a revenue stream for the university and the state, and as such, it’s designed to put every possible burden on the student who’s looking to get out from under it.

Which brings us back to Charlie Webster.

What Webster is doing here is deploying a state regulation designed to deprive Maine’s college students of their money as a mechanism to deprive them of their votes. There’s no other way to describe it. Take their money, take their votes. Justice, fairness, and the Supreme Court of the United States be damned.

It’s really that simple.

Throughout the student movement of the 1960s, most American college students were denied the right to vote.

From the birth of the American republic the voting age had stood at 21. Pressure for earlier voting had been building since 18-year-olds were first drafted in the Second World War, but despite the baby boom, the student movements of the sixties, and the deaths of thousands of Americans under 21 in Korea and Vietnam, reform went nowhere for decades. It was only in May 1970, after National Guard troops shot and killed four students during a protest at Kent State University, that Congress finally took action.

In the aftermath of Kent State, with the nation reeling from the spectacle of its own troops gunning down its own students, the 18-year-old vote was introduced as an amendment to the Voting Rights Act. One senator threatened to filibuster the renewal of the Act if that amendment was not incorporated into it.

The Voting Rights Act, as amended, was signed into law by President Nixon that June. The Supreme Court declared the provision unconstitutional that winter, ruling that Congress didn’t have the power to enfranchise youth in state and local elections, but the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress the following spring and ratified by the states in record time, gave 18-to-20-year-olds the vote for good.

That ratification came forty years ago today.

With the lowering of the voting age, college students became a significant voting bloc in American politics. In the 1970s, for the first time, students could exercise political power not just in the streets, but in the voting booth as well.

A new kind of student politics demanded a new kind of organizing, and so 1971 also saw the creation of the National Student Lobby, America’s first national student-funded, student-directed lobbying organization. State Student Associations (SSAs) and state student lobbies soon followed, making the 1970s an unprecedented boom-time for student electoral organizing.

The SSAs of the 1970s transformed American politics and higher education forever, altering the balance of power between students and educational institutions while giving students a voice in state and national politics that reached far beyond the campus.

Happy birthday, youth voting!

Four McGill students, including the co-presidents of the university’s New Democratic Party Club, were elected to serve in Canada’s national parliament last night.

The New Democratic Party, long a marginal player in Canadian politics, made stunning gains last night, nearly doubling its previous best-ever vote percentage and almost tripling the number of seats it holds in parliament. With the Conservative Party winning a governing majority, the NDP now stands as Canada’s official opposition for the first time.

These gains came largely at the expense of the Quebec nationalist party Bloc Québécois, whose support collapsed to less than one fourth of voters in its home province. The NDP took 45 of its 68 new seats nationally from the BC, and the wave of voter support that carried it to that result often brought victory to candidates who had entered the race with no expectation of winning.

The most notorious example of this is Ruth Ellen Brousseau, an NDP candidate who lives a three-hour drive away from her district, works full-time in a bar, and left the country for a Las Vegas family vacation in the middle of the campaign. Despite not giving any interviews or campaigning in her district — and despite rumors that in a Francophone district she speaks only clumsy French — Brousseau won election last night with forty percent of the vote.

The student winners’ stories aren’t as colorful, but they’re no less weird. Charmaine Borg, the new MP for Terrebonne-Blainville, has a four-sentence bio on the NDP website. Matthew Dubé had just 87 Twitter followers on election day … and apparently took down his Twitter account that night. Laurin Liu ran for (and won) re-election to the board of directors of McGill’s student radio station just a few weeks ago.

As co-presidents of the McGill NDP club, Dubé and Borg apparently spent most of their time this election working to re-elect a local NDP incumbent, not even mentioning their own candidacies in an April 5 student newspaper article on the campaign.

Each of these three candidates now must make plans to move to Ottawa to begin a career as a legislator, a job that carries a $157,731 annual salary.

I haven’t been able to find any of the new legislators’ ages online, by the way, but eligibility won’t be a problem — any Canadian citizen 18 years old or older is eligible to serve in parliament. (In the US, in contrast, you need to be 25 to serve in the House of Representatives.)

Throughout the student movement of the 1960s, most American college students were denied the right to vote.

From the birth of the American republic, the voting age had stood at 21. Pressure for the 18-year-old vote had been building since 18-year-old men were first drafted in the Second World War, but despite the baby boom, the student movements of the sixties, and the deaths of thousands of Americans under 21 in Korea and Vietnam, voting age reform went nowhere for decades.

It was only in May 1970, after National Guard troops shot and killed four students during a protest at Kent State University, that Congress brought the issue to a vote, and even then it was only because of the actions of Senators Ted Kennedy and Mike Mansfield.

In the aftermath of Kent State, with the nation reeling from the spectacle of its own troops gunning down its own students, Kennedy and Mansfield moved decisively. They introduced the 18-year-old vote as an amendment to the Voting Rights Act, and Mansfield threatened to filibuster the renewal of the Act if that amendment was not incorporated into it.

Kennedy and Mansfield won that battle, and the Voting Rights Act, as amended, was signed into law by President Nixon that June. The Supreme Court declared the provision unconstitutional that winter, ruling that Congress didn’t have the power to enfranchise youth in state and local elections, but the Twenty Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress the following spring and ratified by the states in record time, soon gave 18-to-20-year-olds the vote for good.

With the lowering of the voting age, college students became a significant voting bloc in American politics. In the 1970s, for the first time, students could exercise political power not just in the streets, but in the voting booth as well.

A new kind of student politics demanded a new kind of organizing, and so 1971 also saw the creation of the National Student Lobby, America’s first national student-funded, student-directed lobbying organization. State Student Associations (SSAs) and state student lobbies soon followed, making the 1970s an unprecedented boom-time for student electoral organizing.

The SSAs of the 1970s transformed American politics and higher education forever, altering the balance of power between students and educational institutions while giving students a voice in state and national politics that reached far beyond the campus.

This shift in the American political landscape will not be a part of the headlines commemorating Ted Kennedy’s life. It will not be mentioned in most of his obituaries. And of course Kennedy was just one part of the process that brought that transformation into being — the overwhelming majority of the work of the Seventies student revolution was carried out by student activists whose names are lost to history.

But Senator Kennedy did play a crucial role at a crucial moment, and in that respect these changes are part of his legacy as well.

About This Blog

n7772graysmall
StudentActivism.net is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

To contact Angus, click here. For more about him, check out AngusJohnston.com.

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