How the NCGA suppresses the student vote

Mary-Kyle, an Ignite NC Fellow, responds to threats of moving precincts off of campus:

 Mary-Kylie Cranford, Guest Columnist

How the NCGA suppresses the student vote

Let’s talk.

The members of the 2013 North Carolina General Assembly pushed through a nearly 60-page bill that attacked student enfranchisement. Why would they do this? They are scared, and they should be.

During the 2008 presidential election, there was a huge surge in young adults voting. Passed off as a fad brought on by a youthful, exciting presidential candidate, Republican and Tea Party leadership believed that once the election was over, things would return to normal. But in the 2012 election, the demographic of 18 to 24-year-olds increased in turnout again, this time by 39.7 percent, according to the Daily Kos.

An increase in voter turnout of any demographic is a win for any true supporter of democracy, but for the current leaders in North Carolina, it is a threat to their job security. Faced with the fact that the increased youth participation was not a fad, but rather a fundamental change in how younger voters view themselves as part of the political process, the NCGA went into attack mode.

It passed a bill, which becomes effective in stages, adding various barriers to students voting.

The General Assembly cut the first week of early voting and enacted the following bans: same-day registration, straight-party voting, teenage pre-registration and out-of-precinct voting.

Organizations are fighting to change these bans, and you should help. The Historic Thousands on Jones Street march, led by the NAACP, is Feb. 8. N.C. State’s Student Power Union and others around the UNC-System will be joining. HKonJ will be the largest movement in decades. More than 40,000 people across North Carolina are expected to attend, fighting against voter suppression and showing solidarity for others whose rights are being stripped away, from the minimum wage increase to reproductive rights.

I grew up in Mebane, N.C., a small town where the voting age population is about 8,000. Mebane has three voting locations. That’s fair, but I would like to juxtapose that with students living on or near N.C. State’s campus.

According to University Housing, about 7,000 students live on campus, and with more than 34,000 students, I feel we can safely assume that the number of eligible voters living near N.C. State is certainly double or triple the amount of eligible voters in Mebane.

Why isn’t there a voting place on N.C. State’s campus? We have the room and volunteers necessary for it. In 2012 we proved this by having a voting location in Talley. The reason students don’t have a convenient place to vote is because the vast majority of the members of the General Assembly don’t want our voices to be heard.

Regulations set in place by the General Assembly are not meant to keep away fraudulent voters, but rather people who have never voted before, jumping in without what is considered appropriate knowledge of the candidates. No longer allowing straight-party voting also adds to the idea that one must research every single candidate and can’t rely on party identification. Not every voter has the time, will or energy to do that type of research, and it shouldn’t be required. The fact is these are classist and racist tactics used to take away enfranchisement of oppressed groups. The idea that there’s a certain amount of knowledge one should have about the topics is used to make those who need their voices heard the most feel inadequate; these laws systematically confirm that mentality.

Ending early registration of high school students can’t be seen in any light other than the General Assembly not wanting to be held accountable to the up-and-coming voters and constituents. It’s disgusting the attacks the General Assembly feels comfortable making in the view of the public.

The photo ID requirement, effective January 2016, is another classist and racist attack on voter enfranchisement. The General Assembly didn’t stop there, though. It specifically banned student IDs as acceptable identification. I would love to meet the criminal mastermind smart enough and bored enough to fraudulently fill out the voter registration form, a college application, FASFA (assuming this criminal mastermind isn’t extremely loaded), and attend a college’s orientation to get his or her picture taken, for one vote. The separate voter ID requirement is a tactic clearly used to deter students from voting.

The worst part is the General Assembly isn’t going to stop. Why would it? Its members successfully passed a law in which minority groups have a harder time voting them out of office. McCrory needs to know students aren’t going to put up with his perverted view of democracy. Government is made to protect our rights, not to pass ridiculous laws that try to strip them from us. How can you tell him? March at HKonJ!

Only at HKonJ will your voice truly be heard. March with the Student Power Union to show that students will always have a voice in their government. United they can’t ignore us, and united we will be heard.