North Carolina’s Republican proposed voter ID law targets Democratic voting minorities, and the poor, but it also directly goes after the state’s university students who have heavily supported Obama.
According to The Charlotte Observer, the state senate’s version of the voter ID bill doesn’t allow student ID to be used for voting, “The new measure would require voters to show one of seven types of photo identification issued by the government, such as driver’s licenses, passports, non-driver IDs and military or veteran cards. It eliminates about half the types of photo identification allowed under the House version, including cards from UNC system colleges, state community colleges, local governments, private employers and law enforcement agencies. The bill would take full effect in the 2016 elections.”
State House Speaker Thom Tillis admitted in March that voter fraud isn’t the reason why Republicans are pushing this bill. Tillis told MSNBC, “There is some evidence of voter fraud, but that’s not the primary reason for doing this. We call this restoring confidence in government,” Tillis said. “There are a lot of people who are just concerned with the potential risk of fraud.”
Tillis was talking about a House bill that would have allowed more forms of identification to be used in voting than the Senate bill. The House bill allowed student IDs, expired drivers licenses, and government issued IDs to be used, but thanks to the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, Republicans can be more blatant about who they are disenfranchising.
Students helped to power Barack Obama to victory in 2008 and a near victory in last year in North Carolina, so in Republican eyes that must not be allowed to happen again.
Just like elsewhere in the country, North Carolina does not have a voter fraud problem, but the state does have a history of election fraud via absentee ballot. Since Republicans in the state use absentee ballots more than Democrats, the GOP controlled state legislature has proposed loosening restrictions on absentee voting. While claiming to be concerned about potential voter fraud,North Carolina Republicans are encouraging the type of election that they benefit from.
This is another Republican attempt to suppress the vote in the name of combating a problem that doesn’t exist. The risk of voter fraud is a smokescreen for the Republican plan to suppress Democratic voters. The danger here is that denying students their right to vote could prevent some students from ever voting. Voting is a habit that must be acquired. The Obama campaign won two elections because of their ability to create new voters and bring them into the process. Republicans are doing their best to keep those voters out, and make it more difficult for them to vote by reducing early voting and eliminating same day registration. Republicans are trying to stop the tide of changing demographics that is working against them by making the electorate smaller. Disenfranchising students in places like North Carolina is a means of perpetually shrinking the size of the electorate.
As I wrote in 2011, these Republican backed voter ID laws could disenfranchise millions of voters across the country. In North Carolina, 556,000 people stand to lose to their right to vote. That number will be even higher if student IDs are not considered an acceptable form of identification.
In places like North Carolina, Republicans aren’t just trying to steal one election in 2016. They are trying to fundamentally change the electoral landscape to be forever tilted in their favor. It’s clear that the Republican motto has become, “Disenfranchisement today, disenfranchisement tomorrow, disenfranchisement forever.”