Just hours after Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a broad bill to massively restrict voting rights in North Carolina, localities moved to make it harder for students to vote. The moves come on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 June ruling gutting the Voting Rights Act and destroying the provisions that had long required North Carolina and other states with a history of voter suppression to seek pre-clearance before making major changes to election laws.
After the Republican legislature and Republican governor passed the nation’s worst voter suppression bill, making it more difficult for traditionally-Democratic groups like racial minorities and young people to vote, local governments wasted no time in targeting one very large constituency of young people: students.
By a two-to-one vote, the Republican majority in the Watauga County Board of Elections voted Monday to get rid of the early voting site and election-day polling place at Appalachian State University, The State reported Wednesday. With more than 17,000 students, the university is one of the largest in the state. By combining three local precincts into one, the board will force about 9,300 residents to vote in a county building with just 35 parking spots. Republican Mitt Romney narrowly carried the competitive county in 2012 with 50.1 percent of the vote; President Barack Obama had narrowly won it in 2008. State Sen. John Stein, a Democrat, noted that the board was “making it harder for students to vote” purely for partisan advantage.
Tuesday, the 2-1 Republican-majority on the Pasquotank County Board of Elections voted to disqualify Elizabeth City State University students who live in the country from running for local office. The board ruled that Montravias King, a student at the university who lives on campus, had not established permanent residency. The county’s Republican chairman had challenged King’s eligibility and vowed to challenge the residency of other students in Pasquotank County and around the state — a process made easier under McCrory’s new suppression law.
A lawyer representing King voted to appeal the ruling to the state elections board, noting, “under the equal protection principles of the Constitution, you can’t treat college students differently than other voters, and there isn’t this presumption that other voters have to prove they intend to stay in the community permanently, forever and ever.” But, because North Carolina elected a Republican governor last November, that panel too is controlled by a GOP majority.