N.C. Republicans try to bypass constitutional law

By Heidi Harrell – Asst. Opinion Editor – hkrick@unca.edu

Some North Carolina lawmakers will do anything to keep the state from moving forward.

A North Carolina Senate bill filed Tuesday, if passed, will eliminate a $2,500 tax deduction for parents of college students who register to vote using their school address.

Senate bill 667, also known as “Equalize Voter Rights,” blatantly suppresses the increasing Democratic vote in the historically Republican state.

North Carolina, since 1968, voted almost exclusively Republican, with Barack Obama reversing the trend in the 2008 presidential election.  The swing state tipped back to Republicans in the 2012 presidential election.

Several reasons may explain the current surge to protect the Republican vote or outright suppress the Democrat vote; however, either way one examines the situation, the bill is clearly an injustice against college voters.

College students tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Young voters overwhelmingly determined Obama’s 2008 success in N.C., by winning 74 percent of voters under 30.

Obama lost N.C. in 2012, but by an extremely slim margin. Romney took the state by only 2 percent.

State Republicans acknowledged the power of the youth vote and its link to winning elections; however, rather than accept these evolutionary changes, some members of the N.C. legislature would rather eliminate the youth vote completely.

Just to clarify, this writer is registered neither Democrat nor Republican.

This fact should illuminate an important point: when one witnesses an injustice, the people must always rally against it.

One can only view this retroactive piece of legislation as a thinly veiled poll tax.

Poll taxes were incredibly popular in the southern states during the years of the Jim Crow laws, and were used to prevent African-Americans from voting.

Poll taxes were often justified for increasing revenues, a claim also used to justify Senate bill 667.

Supporters of the bill also claim it is not intended to reduce young voter turnout, rather, to protect students from abuse.

Supporters of the bill cited a case in Buncombe County where college students changed the outcome of a race last year for a county commission seat, explaining this case was an example of groups manipulating young voters.

If by manipulated, they mean young people tend to vote for liberal rather than conservative voices, then supporters of the bill have a valid argument.

In reality, the idea that groups manipulate young voters by encouraging them to vote is ludicrous.

Voter turnout from young people is traditionally low, and the fact that young people are now involved with elections should encourage law makers to support, rather than suppress, the change.

North Carolina Republicans, instead, recognized young people typically do not vote for intolerant and backward policies, so they created a bill that will stop young people from voting altogether.

In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled college students have the right to register and vote with their college address.

Republicans in North Carolina seem to believe federal laws do not apply to this state.

The proposed bill will also force a very uncomfortable situation upon families with college-aged students.

If a school outside of their home town accepts a student, the student must choose whether or not to use their parent’s home address as their permanent address.

Students using their home address for their permanent address will be extremely unlikely to drive home in order to vote, especially if the student’s college is more than two or three hours from home.

Supporters of the bill claim it will not suppress college voters because nothing will prevent the student from absentee voting.

Unfortunately, statistics from the 2010 Census Bureau survey show people are less likely to vote using an absentee ballot.

Families are left with very few unforgiving options: students will use their parents’ address and reduce the likelihood the student will vote at all, or students will use their college address and force a tax hike on parents who financially support their child in college.

Nearly 60 percent of parents financially support their college-aged children, a Forbes 2011 survey reported. Parents should not be penalized because their child want to retain their voting right while attending school away from home.

College students must not be prevented from voting, for any reason.

For years, America complained about young people’s lacking political interest. Now that young people found interest, North Carolina Republicans would rather eliminate those voices than learn from what they have to say.

Republicans ought to be ashamed of this bill. North Carolina may pride itself on Southern tradition, but that does not mean the population prefers to live in its arrogant or self-righteous past.

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