On April 17th, Duke Democrats stands with student organizations across the state against voter suppression
The North Carolina General Assembly has introduced a barrage of legislation that will pose significant obstacles for North Carolina voters, especially students, the elderly, women, transgender individuals, and the poor.
North Carolina is trying to replicate the voting laws of Florida, which led to long lines, confusion, and widespread discontent in the 2012 election; they should be a model of what we don’t want in our elections!
The following bills will have a significant impact on Duke students:
House Bill 451:
- Eliminates same-day voter registration. Because Duke students change precincts at least twice, and often up to four times in their time as students, same-day registration, which lets students update their address as they move from East to West or Central Campus, is especially important.
- Cuts early voting by one week. In the 2012 and 2008 elections, an Early Vote site on Duke’s campus made voting helped Duke students, staff and faculty vote conveniently. In 2010, while there was no Early Vote site on campus, the Early Vote site at the Durham Board of Elections was accessible by public transit. If students wait to election day to vote, they often encounter serious difficulties making it to their voting location. The W.I. Patterson Center, where East and West Campus residents vote on Election Day is a 25 minute walk from the Duke Chapel on West Campus, at a 29 minute walk from the Central Campus Oreogn apartments.
- Makes judicial election partisan
- Changes the order of candidates on the ballot, so candidates from the Governor’s party always appear first
- Forbids counties from conducting early voting on Sundays. Current N.C. law does not require counties to conduct Sunday early voting, but permits it. Restricting Sunday voting will have a serious impact on minority voter turnout. Across the country, Sunday early voting is disproportionally popular among African Americans and Latinos. As reported by the American Constitution Society, in 2008, for example, African Americans represented 13% of the total voters, and 22% of the early voters, but 31% of the total voters on the final Sunday; Hispanic citizens represented 11% of the total voters, and 11% of the early voters, but 22% of the total voters on the final Sunday. Notably, the pattern is similar in 2010: African Americans represented 12% of the total voters, and 13% of the early voters, but 23% of the voters on the final Sunday; Hispanics represented 9% of the total voters, and 8% of the early voters, but 16% of the voters on the final Sunday.
Senate Bill 666 & 667:
- Strips parents of the up-to-$2,500 tax exemption for a dependent child if that child registers to vote anywhere but at home
- Restricts Early Voting to a maximum of one location per county. Duke students would no longer be able to vote on campus.
- In the words of Jordan DeLoatch, a Duke sophomore from Cary, North Carolina: “As a North Carolinian student myself, I would have to vote at home instead of participating in the elections that will have a direct impact on me for the majority of the year.”
- In his defense of the bill, sponsor Senator Bill Cook, a Republican from Beaufort county said [college students’ don’t pay squat in taxes … They skew the results of elections in local areas …but they don’t have any skin in the game.” Elena Botella, a Duke senior from Charlotte, North Carolina points out how patently ridiculous this claim is: “Duke students, and students across the state of North Carolina, pay sales tax. A huge proportion work jobs on or off campus — they pay income tax. Students living off campus are paying property tax. While any given student might be living in a city for just four years, the student community is permanent. The voices of students need to be heard in the communities in which they live.”
NC House Bill 589:
Requires North Carolina voters to show ID.
- Unlike some states with strict voter ID laws, North Carolina would not accept the school IDs of private universities.
- Unlike some states with strict voter ID laws, North Carolina would not accept driver’s licenses issues by other states
- Unlike some states with strict voter ID laws, North Carolina would not provide free IDs to those without them, unless voters sign an affidavit affirming financial hardship, under penalty of perjury. In the words of Durham-based civil rights attorney Anita Earls: “How is somebody going to know they are signing an affidavit that is going to open them up to possible perjury convictions?”
- As reported by The Nation: “Over 7 percent of registered voters in North Carolina, 481,109 to be exact, don’t have a driver’s license or a state-issued photo ID, according to the state’s own data. Fifty-five percent of registered voters without photo ID are Democrats. African-Americans make up 22 percent of registered voters in the state, but a third of all registered voters without ID. Exit polling conducted by Southern Coalition for Social Justice in six counties in 2012 found that 8.8 percent of voters had no form of photo ID and that a majority of those who lacked any photo ID were African-American.
Also of note are the following two pending pieces of legislation; while these laws would impact a smaller proportion of Duke students, they nevertheless represent an unconscionable restriction of the franchise.
Senate Bill 721:
- Creates a five-year wait period before ex-felons have their voting rights restored after completing their sentence. Getting their right to vote reinstated would require the unanimous consent of local board of elections members and two affidavits from local voters about the individual’s “upstanding moral character.”
Senate Bill 668:
- A ban on voting by persons adjudicated “incompetent” – even if the person’s mental health issues have nothing to do with their abilities to understand voting.
What you can do:
- Tweet and use social media today with the hashtag #saveourvote
- Join Duke Democrats at the East Campus bridge at 6pm (near Gilbert Addoms) for a group photo of those who oppose the voter suppression laws
- We want to share your story — we especially want to talk to Duke students who don’t have driver’s licenses or who work and/or volunteer off-campus. How would these laws impact you? Post in the comments or email Elena at email@example.com
Today, we stand with our peers from campuses across the state, like Louis, Ian, and Anne. Learn more about their efforts and the statewide efforts of College Democrats at this link.
President Barack Obama’s annual budget — which he will send to Capitol Hill Wednesday — includes a cut to Social Security called chained CPI. “CPI” stands for consumer price index; the United States has always adjusted Social Security benefits to inflation. Essentially, this policy presumes that seniors will change their buying habits as prices go up. Obama’s upcoming budget will mark the first time that he is formally proposing to reduce future Social Security benefits.
Of course, Obama has said that he will only agree to this cut in Social Security benefits if Republicans agree to tax increases on the wealthy and some corporations. And Obama’s advisers no doubt believe that if he debunks the Republican talking point that “he isn’t serious about entitlement reform” the public will side with him and push their representatives to back Obama’s budget.
Here’s the problem. Obama’s budget proposal essentially mirrors his final compromise offer to Speaker John Boehner last winter. By putting chained CPI in his formal budget, Republicans feel that Obama will give even more on cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid later in the negotiation process. Boehner already dismissed Obama’s budget because he says that tax hikes are holding “modest entitlement savings” hostage.
As is often the case today, one tweet perfectly crystallizes the Republicans’ perspective on budget negotiations. Senator Marco Rubio tweeted Dec. 30, 2012 during the fiscal cliff debate, “Report that #GOP insisting on changes to social security as part of #fiscalcliff false. BTW those changes are supported by @barackobama.” Republicans don’t want to explicitly propose cuts to Social Security; their base relies heavily on seniors. But they do believe those cuts are needed, and attacking Obama for proposing them stands as an added bonus. Instead of including chained CPI in his budget, Obama should have forced the Republicans to offer those unpopular cuts and isolated them politically. Yet again, Republicans have slapped away Obama’s hand at an attempt for compromise. When will he learn not to play directly in their hands?
We may be Blue Devils, but Senate Bill 666, filed yesterday in the North Carolina General Assembly, is a threat to our voting rights. The first page of this bill contains the following text: “The taxpayer is allowed an exemption amount for each qualifying child, as provided by section 151(c) of the Code for the taxable year, unless the qualifying child has changed their principal place of abode from that of the taxpayer as indicated by the qualifying child’s voter registration.”
Senate Bill 667 is similar in spirit: “The following additions to taxable income shall be made in calculating North Carolina taxable income, to the extent each item is not included in taxable income: … (16) Any personal exemption allowed for a child if that child is registered to vote at an address other than that of the person claiming the exemption and the child does not cancel the child’s voter registration within 30 days of receiving a letter of notification under G.S. 163-82.7(c1).”
What both of these bills have in common is that they seek to limit the right of students to vote at college by putting a financial penalty on their families–and creating financial incentives to vote in a certain manner is dangerous in itself. As a North Carolinian student myself, I would have to vote at home instead of participating in the elections that will have a direct impact on me for the majority of the year.
Regardless of whether this kind of bill passes, this is not the first effort by the General Assembly to limit your right to vote on campus, nor will it be the last.
The New York Times posted two brilliant articles on immigration in the past week. One revealed a positive (and unintentional) consequence of President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, and the other showed a negative ramification. But they both highlight the urgent need for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.
Angy Rivera, an undocumented immigrant, was sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend. Many undocumented immigrants are fearful of reporting crime to law enforcement because of the possibility of deportation. But Obama’s policy of deferred action — allowing young undocumented immigrants to apply for the right to temporarily remain in the country and work under certain conditions — allowed Rivera to apply for a visa for victims of crimes. Unfortunately, though, deferred action only amounts to a stopgap solution because it only lasts for two years.
The other article centered on immigrants held in solitary confinement. The Obama administration has increased the immigration detention population, and undocumented immigrants are typically given sentences without end dates and stay in confinement until they sign deportation papers. This article contains many harrowing anecdotes of people subject to the unimaginable anguish of losing all human contact. Delfino Quiroz was placed in solitary confinement for four months “for his own protection” because he is gay, for example.
These two articles epitomize the need for immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship. As Voto Latino President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar said on Real Time with Bill Maher March 22, anything short of a path to citizenship would create two classes of people in America: citizens and those who work for citizens. The United States has already lived that history, and we need to confront this issue as one of civil rights. Creating a permanent underclass in America is immoral and does little to address the issues faced by immigrants who find themselves in confinement for civil (not criminal) infractions or for those who are victims of violence. Nearly two-thirds of all Americans — and a majority of Republicans — now support a pathway to citizenship. Leaders across party lines must pass a bill that includes a path to citizenship as soon as possible to bring these victims out of the shadows and into full-fledged American life.
This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. It is a momentous and solemn occasion, and one that also seems inaccessible to me. I clearly remember when the war began. I was in sixth grade. We discussed the first invasion force that took place on March 20 in class, and I remember thumbing through the local newspaper the next day after school with my mom. I knew it was something important—and I could tell from my mom’s strong reactions against the war that it was something I should be paying attention to—but I was not emotionally entangled enough to have any sort of visceral reaction. I finished skimming the news article, then put the paper down and returned to the issues that were more pressing for an 11 year old: finishing my math homework, going to my flute lesson and hanging out with my friend at the local ice cream parlor, where would catch up on each others gossip.
Although I was against the war while it was waged—supporting candidates who were against it and criticizing the Bush administration—I cannot say that I have ever felt truly engaged with the issue. It is a bizarre sensation of exteriority to something that plays a big role in defining the generation I grew up in. But strangely, I think a lot of Americans who never saw the war firsthand share those same sentiments. In a New Yorker blog today, George Parker writes about a new exhibit that will be hosted in New York for the next month entitled “Invasion: Diaries and Memories of War in Iraq.” Parker writes that although the images are personal and captivating, he also got the sense from viewing them that it is too soon to be seeing the Iraq War memorialized in a museum. After all, it is a conflict that continues to define America’s foreign policy and future, and cannot yet be put to rest behind museum glass.
“Anniversaries are uneasy things,” Parker writes. “They seldom correspond to a spontaneous state of mind, yet they call for an emotional response, and the required effort can leave you unsettled and dissatisfied.”
I agree with Parker, but in my case, I think addressing those unsettled and dissatisfied feelings are the closest way I can come to closure with the war, and to remember those people who did lose their lives or who are struggling to reintegrate themselves into daily life while post-traumatic stress still haunts their minds. War is a strange and bewildering idea and reality. For those of us who do not experience it firsthand, it is much easier to simply note the news articles and keep up with the facts without becoming emotionally entangled. But it is important—especially on a day like the war’s ten-year anniversary—to take a moment to really think about it.
Last week, Judge Milton Tingling struck down New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s limits on large sugary drinks. Despite Bloomberg’s noble intentions to curb obesity, his proposal amounted to a lazy way to fight the obesity epidemic.
For one, the limit had multiple loopholes: it did not apply to 7-Eleven and its Big Gulp soda or Starbucks and its lattés and milkshakes. If the limit was allowed to take effect, it is conceivable that one New York store would have sodas larger than 16 ounces available, and another store right next door would not have those drinks available. The limit also did not apply to refills, so patrons would still be able to consume the same amount of soda that they would have wanted to.
It is true that Americans’ unhealthy lifestyles bloats the exploding cost of health care. But it’s also unhealthy to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol excessively. Instead of making cigarette or alcohol sales illegal, the United States taxes those products. That, opposed to banning products outright, is the solution; apparently some have forgotten the failures of Prohibition. A negative externality may exist in cigarette smoking — the idea that the price of cigarette packs may be lower than social costs. A tax is imposed to make purchasing cigarette packs harder and to make the market act in a more efficient manner.
This limit serves as easy fodder for the right-wing pundits to seize on the idea of the “nanny state”; the idea that liberals think they know better than others and have never met a regulation on “bad behavior” they didn’t like. Public policy should undoubtedly address America’s obesity epidemic. But simply banning the sale of some sugary drinks in some stores won’t solve much. Children should receive education about healthy lifestyles, underserved communities should have access to fresh produce and perhaps sugary drinks should be taxed. Limiting soda represents a misguided choice, and Judge Tingling did the right thing for New York with his decision.
In a rare moment, the U.S. Congress took a positive step forward for the country today. The House of Representatives approved the Violence Against Women Act, sending it to President Barack Obama’s desk for signature. (The Senate had already passed the bill, 78-22, and 87 Republicans joined 199 Democrats to pass the bill in the House today.)
Obama and Democrats admirably held their ground on this important issue. The 2013 VAWA included some new provisions — like protection for LGBT individuals, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants. House Republicans actually proposed their own version of VAWA, deleting the provisions from the Senate version that gave tribal authorities jurisdiction to prosecute cases, protected LGBT individuals and allowed undocumented immigrant survivors of domestic violence to seek legal status. The GOP version failed to pass, getting 166 “yea” votes and 257 “nay.”
It’s disturbing that Republicans would want to weaken VAWA, but I’ll get to that later. Now, undocumented immigrants won’t have to fear deportation if they report domestic violence to their police authorities. The bill would allow undocumented immigrants to receive a U visa, a temporary visa that allows immigrant victims of serious crimes to remain in the United States to assist law enforcement officers.
With an issue as damaging as domestic violence, it’s unconscionable that some Republicans would want to merely stay with the status quo. Republicans may believe that LGBT individuals and undocumented immigrants should not receive the full rights of others, but one would think that they would at least agree that they deserve protection if they are victims of violence or discrimination. Democratic Representative Gwen Moore, herself a rape survivor, said in reference to LGBT people, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants on the House floor, “Ain’t they women?” She’s right; all women, regardless of background, sexual orientation or immigration status deserve protection from domestic violence. I’m glad that today, the law will reflect that ideal.