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Michigan students sue for laws that say it's hard for them to vote

Michigan University Democrats are suing to block two state statutes that say they target young voters and make it more difficult to vote.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Thursday on behalf of the Democrats of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, as well as the Federation of Michigan University Democrats points to a 1999 state law that requires a voter's voter registration address to match that of their driver's license. It also challenges a Michigan statute that requires anyone who registers to vote by mail or through a third party to vote in person the first time they vote.

The lawsuit alleges that the statutes violate the First Amendment and the 26th Amendment, which guarantees anyone 18 years of age or older the right to vote.

Laws are more likely to affect young voters, the lawsuit argues, because they are disproportionately more likely to move and maintain two addresses: one at home and one at school. College students are also more likely to be voters for the first time and take advantage of the opportunity to register by mail or through a voter registration campaign, but often lack access to reliable transportation, the lawsuit says.

"Young voters in Michigan have faced unequal and consequential barriers when registering to vote and vote for the first time, and have even been denied the right to vote for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualification or eligibility to participate in the Michigan elections, "wrote the attorneys representing the group. The lawsuit also notes that state law allows people to register to vote wherever they sleep regularly, store their personal belongings and have regular housing.

Young voters in Michigan have faced unequal and consequential barriers when registering to vote and vote for the first time.
Claim on behalf of the Democrats of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the Michigan Federation of University Democrats

A spokesman for Michigan State Secretary Ruth Johnson (R), a defendant in the lawsuit, said the secretariat was "taken by surprise with what appears to be a strange lawsuit." It added it was easy for college students to update their addresses.

"For 20 years, residents have been able to comfortably update their address for both driver's license and voting purposes," said Fred Woodhams, the spokesperson , in an email. " Michigan is by far the best state in the union to register people to vote in our 131 offices of the Secretary of State (motor vehicles) .The separation of the address of a person for the purpose of voting and licensing would cause confusion and lead to different directions for people who thought they had both changed. "

Michigan students are being represented by a team of lawyers that includes Marc Elias, who served as general counsel for the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. In July, Elias and his team represented a group of college students in Florida who successfully sued the state to get rid of a general ban on early voting on college campuses. In that case, a federal judge said the state ban was intentional discrimination under Amendment 26.

No court had found a policy to be intentionally discriminatory under that amendment, which led some observers to speculate that the amendment could be an emerging tool to combat voting restrictions.

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