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The Washington DC Council is considering a set of reforms to the district’s elections that would have the effect of encouraging youth voter turnout — and allowing some currently ineligible teens to vote in primary elections.

Among other things, the Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009 would:

  • Allow 16-year-olds to “pre-register” to vote.
  • Grant the vote in primary elections to 17-year-olds who would turn 18 by the time of the general election.
  • Establish same-day voter registration, eliminating a deadline that’s currently a month in advance of election day.

Each of these reforms is designed to get young people (and, in the case of the third, not-young people too) engaged with electoral politics. The evidence shows clearly that if you register, you’re likely to vote, and that if you vote once, you’re likely to vote again.

Eliminating barriers to voting is the biggest step we can take toward higher turnout, and all of these proposals are worthy of adoption in DC and throughout the nation.

Members of the Iranian parliament are repudiating last night’s government attack on students in dormitories at Tehran University, and the parliament’s speaker has appointed a committee to investigate the event.

According to a report by INSA, the Iranian Students News Agency, a group of parliamentarians visited the university today, taking testimony from students who witnessed the previous night’s events.

After their trip to the campus the group made a statement calling “for the damages [to dormitory buildings] to be repaired … arrested students to be released and those who carried out [these] unfortunate events to be arrested.”

In response to the lawmakers’ call, parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani constituted the group as a formal committee charged with investigating the “unfortunate incidents.”

5 pm update: Larijani is a longtime rival of Ahmadinejad, but he conspicuously congratulated the president on his re-election over the weekend. His appointment of this committee may suggest that he believes the political winds are shifting.

10 pm update: The Guardian (UK) says it has received an unconfirmed report that five Tehran University students died in the dorm assault. It names the five students, and reports that they are believed to have been buried today. The Guardian also reports that seven people involved in a student protest are said to have been killed by riot police in Shiraz, and that students at Isfahan University may have been thrown from upper-story windows.

11 pm update: According to this site, two of the five students killed were women. The female students who were said to have died were Mobina Ehterami and Fatemeh Barati, and the men were Kasra Sharafi, Kambiz Shoaei, and Mohsen Imani.

Reporting from Iran in the wake of the apparent theft of the presidential election is still extremely fragmentary, but it’s clear that there’s a tremendous amount of unrest, and that that unrest is in large part being led by students. Here’s what I’ve been able to glean about the situation so far this morning:

Hundreds of riot police have shut down the road to the dormitories at Tehran University, where student riots against the regime took place ten years ago. Violence has also been reported at Shahid Beheshti University. More than a hundred faculty members at Sharif University in Tehran have resigned in protest of the government’s actions regarding the election. University exams, scheduled for this weekend across Iran, have been postponed until next month.

Much of the most dramatic news on the Iranian situation is coming from Twitter. (English-language Twitter feeds from Iranian students include @change_for_iran and @tehranelection — I’ll add to this list as I can.) Many of these reports are unsourced and unverifiable, but a sample of results from a search on iranelection university gives a feel for what’s out there:

  • @1luvfreedom Students at Univ of Tehran barricaded campus. Continue to hold the university against security forces’ violence. #iranelection

Iranian students are taking to the streets to protest the apparent theft of their country’s presidential election by hard-line incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran’s students overwhelmingly supported challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, and they are deeply distrustful of government results that show Ahmadinejad winning re-election in a landslide. In Tehran there are reports of police beating students with batons, and even of police and student demonstrators throwing rocks at one another.

It remains unclear what steps Mousavi will take next, and how the nation’s students will react as the situation develops — some believe that a meek response by Mousavi could further inflame student anger, creating further instability in the system.

More on this story as it develops.

3 pm update: It’s now midnight in Tehran. Very little solid news has emerged in the last few hours. There are reports that Iranian mobile phone service has been cut off, and that that internet access has been restricted or degraded. Time magazine has eyewitness reports of the fatal beating of a protester, and rumors that Mousavi has been placed under house arrest are circulating widely.

“Freedom is the right to share, share fully and equally, in American society — to vote, to hold a job, to enter a public place, to go to school. It is the right to be treated in every part of our national life as a person equal in dignity and promise to all others.

“But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.

“You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, “you are free to compete with all the others,” and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.

“Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.

“This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.”

–Lyndon Johnson, Howard University Commencement, June 4, 1965.

About This Blog

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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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