Many youth activists are furious with the campaigns of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) for suggesting that college students who did not grow up in Iowa should not caucus there in January — and they are delivering that message both publicly and privately.
“It’s terrible to have candidates making misleading statements about whether or not students can caucus,” said Alexandra Acker, executive director of the Young Democrats of America.
“I’m very worried about the caucus-day implications of this,” Acker said, concerned that discouraging students from caucusing will make an existing problem worse. “Students are disenfranchised at higher rates to begin with.”
Young Voter PAC, another Democratic youth organization, has also responded aggressively. The political action committee, which works with Democratic candidates to engage young voters, founded the Facebook group “Hey Clinton, Stop Telling Young Voters to Stay Home.”
Rock the Vote issued a statement encouraging students from out of state to vote. Student PIRGs Young Voters Project put out a release from a number of its student leaders in Iowa saying, “We live here in Iowa for the majority of the year. … To say that students who didn’t grow up in Iowa, but who now live here, shouldn’t have the choice to participate in the caucuses is blatant voter disenfranchisement.”
The argument centers on whether to encourage Iowa college students from out of state to caucus in Iowa — as the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is doing — or to frown at it, as the Clinton and Dodd campaigns have hinted at.
Drawing an implicit contrast with the Obama campaign, Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee said, “We are not systematically trying to manipulate the Iowa caucuses with out-of-state people; we don’t have literature recruiting out-of-state college students.”
And Dodd’s Iowa state Director Julie Andreeff Jensen accused Obama of “scheming to evade either the spirit or the letter of the rules that guide the process.”
By last week, it seemed that youth activists like Acker had made some headway when both campaigns released statements saying that all eligible voters should caucus. But both candidates and their surrogates have continued to sound ambiguous notes since then.
Dodd declared that students who did not grow up in Iowa should not caucus, saying, “If you’re from Hartford, Conn., and you’re going to school at the University of Iowa, and you’re paying out-of-state tuition, you’re [unfairly] casting yourself as an Iowan.”
David Yepsen, the influential Des Moines Register columnist, criticized the Obama campaign Dec. 1 for distributing a pamphlet informing student supporters that even if they are out of state on Jan. 3 they can return to Iowa and caucus at their school precinct.
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