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Jul
2014
9

NC College Students Fighting Voter ID Laws on Grounds of Age Discrimination

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The subject of Voter ID usually revolves around race. Laws have been struck down in states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania due to their disproportional effect on minorities and the elderly, but other segments of the population are up in arms as well. Namely, college students.  

In North Carolina, lawyers for seven college students have joined the fight against voter ID by claiming age discrimination.  The New York Times detailed these students’ uproar over Republican legislators who want to suppress the youth (read: typically Democrat-leaning) vote:

“There’s an unprecedented effort nationally by Republican-controlled legislatures to restrict the franchise in a way we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Marc Elias, the Democratic election lawyer bringing the age-discrimination claim. “Young voting in particular is a part of that effort.”

Proposals to change voting rules have frequently affected younger voters, particularly college students.

In Ohio, legislators proposed a law that would have cost colleges millions of dollars for helping out-of-state students vote locally. The measure died amid criticism from state schools. In Maine, the Republican attorney general — at the behest of the state party chairman — investigated 200 students for fraud. After finding no evidence, he sent the students a letter warning them to register their cars in Maine or to cancel their voter registrations.

In Texas, voters must show a photo ID. A state handgun license qualifies, but a state university identification card does not. North Carolina students have also complained of government efforts, distinct from the new voting law, to shut down voting sites at Appalachian State University and Winston-Salem State University.

Under the North Carolina law passed last year, the period for early voting was shortened and same-day registration was eliminated. Beginning in 2016, voters will need to show photo identification, and student ID cards, including those issued by state universities, will not be acceptable. In most instances, neither will an out-of-state driver’s license.

The law also eliminated a program in which teenagers filled out their voter-registration forms early and were automatically registered when they turned 18.

“For people like me, it makes what should be a simple process very difficult,” said Josue Berduo, 20, an economics major at North Carolina State University and a Democrat who is one of the plaintiffs.

The youth vote’s tendency to lean left is undeniable, so Republican claims voter fraud prevention are difficult to believe:

Nationally, voters under the age of 30 represent a big voting bloc. They cast more than 20 million votes in the 2012 presidential election, accounting for about 15 percent of the total, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, a nonpartisan center at Tufts University. And in North Carolina, their turnout in 2012 was about 57 percent, among the highest in the country.

In both that election and in 2008, the Obama campaign pushed hard to register student voters, and the payoff was clear. In 2008, that age group voted so overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama that he became the first Democratic presidential candidate in a generation to carry the state, though he lost every other age group. Four years later, young voters helped keep the election close, though Republican Mitt Romney carried the state.

The slew of North Carolina voter ID lawsuits have been combined into one, potentially strengthening the overall case. A hearing will be held next summer, at which point the law will meet its fate. In an ongoing hearing that began Monday a judge was asked by the U.S. Justice Department to place a preliminary injunction against the law until its constitutionality is determined.  The hearing is expected to last until tomorrow.

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