Protecting the Voting Rights of Students

by December 5, 2013

Peter Grear Protecting the Voting Rights of StudentsThe 2013 North Carolina Voter Suppression Act, a.k.a. the North Carolina Information Verification Act, launched a direct attack on our democracy as well as the right and ability of our students to register and vote.  The attack on student voting rights in North Carolina is very similar and consistent with such attacks around the country.  And, as noted in earlier articles, these voter suppression efforts target the virtual entirety of the “Obama Coalition”. Later in this article we’ll address the way that the NC GOP responded to student voting immediately following the so-called Information Verification Act.  However, you should recall that voter suppression as it relates to blacks had its origin in pre-slavery and slavery America.  

So it should be of no surprise that the first major voter rights case that established the right of students to vote in the jurisdictions of their schools resulted from a GOP attempt to dilute and deny students at a historically black college, Prairie View A&M, full access to the ballot.  In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled in Symm v. United States that students have a right to vote in their college town.  

In September, Dan Froomkin, wrote for the Huffington Post, that as a part of an ongoing practice, Republican law makers were implementing various voter suppression tactics to reduce access to the ballot by students.  They included photo ID laws in Tennessee, restrictions specific to students in Wisconsin, reduction of early voting days in Florida and voter ID in Pennsylvania.  These bills are a part of numerous GOP bills aimed at students and other Democratic-leaning groups.  Voter ID laws are especially effective in suppressing student voting because most students that live on campus and are from out of county or out of state, don’t have addresses that match their driver licenses addresses, if they have a license.  Students often move from dorm to dorm during their college careers and don’t necessarily change addresses when they do.  One GOP tactic has been to exclude student ID as acceptable forms of voter identification. 

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However, the North Carolina Voter Suppression Act of 2013 is viewed as the most repressive voter suppression legislation in America.  Immediately after its enactment, the attack on students began with a promise to be massive and unrelenting.  The Nation’s, Ari Berman, addressed the Republican attack in North Carolina, in August when he wrote about the attack on student voting at two historically black colleges, Winston-Salem State University and Elizabeth City State University and at Appalachian State University.  At historically black Winston-Salem State, the Republican-controlled Forsyth County Board of Elections voted to shut down an early voting site on that campus.  The Republican-controlled Watauga County Board of Election in Boone, NC, voted along party lines to close the early voting and general election site on the campus of Appalachian State.  At Elizabeth City State, the GOP-controlled Pasquotank County Board of Elections voted to disqualify Montravias King, a student running for city council, by claiming that he couldn’t use his student dorm address as proof of residency.  Obviously, Symm v. United States held otherwise. 

It’s important to note that Montavias King was successful in his legal challenge to the decision denying him the right to run for city council.  He ran and was elected to Elizabeth City’s City Council.  The students at Appalachian and Winston-Salem also challenged restrictions on their right to vote with notable results.  

Students aren’t sitting passively by and allowing Republicans to disenfranchise them.  We’ll monitor and report student responses in coming articles.  However, to help fight their own battle, students created

To join the opposition to dfeat voter suppression please write us at:  [email protected]  or visit us at & •

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