Local Feature · The Devil's Advocate

How voter suppression laws will impact Duke students

On April 17th, Duke Democrats stands with student organizations across the state against voter suppression

All Americans have the right to vote.  We strongly oppose laws that create new obstacles for those wishing to exercise their democratic rights.
All Americans have the right to vote. We strongly oppose laws that create new obstacles for those wishing to exercise their democratic rights.

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

    Adrienne Harreveld and Jordan DeLoatch, both Duke 2014, on the first day of 2012 Early Voting.
    Adrienne Harreveld and Jordan DeLoatch, both Duke 2014, on the first day of 2012 Early Voting.  If SB666 goes into effect, Jordan’s parents would pay $2,000 more in taxes because he cast his ballot on campus.
  • 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 edb10@duke.edu

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.

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