Student voter suppression is an affront to the memory of Andrew Goodman

This op-ed was published by The Hill on July 30, 2018.

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When my brother, Andrew Goodman, was 20 years old, he traveled to Mississippi with 1,000 other student volunteers to participate in Freedom Summer of 1964. He joined as an ally with African-Americans who were struggling to overcome discrimination and intimidation to gain access to the ballot box. On his first day in Mississippi, he and two other civil rights workers were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan for their work to uphold the values of our democracy.

Today, threats to voting rights continue. The student leaders in The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Vote Everywhere program on 56 campuses across the country carry on my brother’s legacy by protecting voting rights for young people and others who face electoral discrimination. As we commemorate the 54th anniversary of my brother’s disappearance and murder, The Andrew Goodman Foundation is taking action to end student voter suppression in Florida.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has created an impediment to student voting through his unconstitutional interpretation of the state’s early voting law. He has prohibited the use of public college and university campus buildings as early polling sites, making voting more difficult for students across the state. The Andrew Goodman Foundation is committed to removing this barrier to voting. In June, we took a step to continue the work my brother died fighting for and became a plaintiff, along with the League of Women Voters and six students, in a lawsuit against Secretary Detzner.

On Tuesday, July 24, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of Secretary Detzner’s ban on early voting on campus. Despite this victory, there remains much work to do before students in Florida enjoy equal voting rights.

With some of the longest Election Day lines in the nation, Floridians show a clear preference for early voting. In the 2016 general election, over 68 percent of Florida voters cast their ballots early, either at early polling sites or through absentee ballots. For students, this opportunity is even more important, because busy course schedules leave little time for standing in line on Election Day. Many students do not have cars on campus and have little time to reach distant polling sites. As a result, Secretary Detzner’s interpretation of the state’s early voting law, if it prevails, could prevent hundreds of thousands of students from voting.

The Florida election law allows the local supervisor of elections to designate certain public buildings such as libraries, civic centers, stadiums, and government-owned community centers as early polling sites. These buildings on Florida’s public college and university campuses should qualify. Secretary Detzner’s interpretation suppresses student voters by disqualifying these sites simply because of their location on a college or university campus.

This discrimination against student voters is just one of many instances of voter suppression today and violates the First, 14th, and 26th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as Judge Walker ruled. Voter ID requirements, the closure of polling sites in areas with large minority populations, racial gerrymandering, and the purging of inactive voters from the rolls are merely new forms of historic voter suppression tactics like poll taxes and literacy tests from 50 years ago.

These tactics are an affront to the memory of Andrew Goodman and all who died fighting for equal voting rights decades ago. The temporary injunction against Secretary Detzner’s campus early-voting ban is just one step toward creating a more fair and equal democracy. As we work to honor my brother’s legacy, I pledge to fight every instance of voter suppression until every state in the nation restores full voting rights to every American citizen.

About the Author

David Goodman is the brother of Andrew Goodman, the President of The Andrew Goodman Foundation, and a member of its Board of Trustees.