Huffpost Politics

North Carolina Voter ID Law Targets College Students

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NORTH CAROLINA LEGISLATURE
A protester holds the flag of North Carolina at a recent demonstration. A slew of controversial bills, including a voter ID law, has drawn protesters outside the state capitol in recent weeks. | AP

Legislation that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) plans to sign into law -- despite not reading the entire bill -- will make it more difficult for college students to vote in the Tar Heel state.

The GOP-backed bill, H.B. 589, will require voters to display specific types of government-issued IDs at the polls, and it doesn't recognize college ID as valid identification. The measure also removes preregistration for high school students, cuts early voting time and eliminates same-day registration.

"It's clearly targeting student voters," Diana Kasdan, senior counsel at the New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. "They tend to vote Democratic, and it's a Republican-controlled state legislature that passed it."

Although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) won North Carolina in 2012, two-thirds of voters under age 30 voted Democratic.

U.S. Supreme Court precedent allows out-of-state students to vote where they attend college, but few students seek to obtain a driver's license in the state where they attend school. For this reason, critics contend that voter ID laws that do not allow college-issued cards create an extra hurdle for young voters.

"What the legislation is essentially saying to students is that even though you live here for the majority of your time, you don’t have a say-so in the government,” Joshua Vincent, a 30-year-old graduate student at North Carolina Central University, told The Huffington Post. Vincent was arrested along with five others while protesting the law at the state capitol last week.

In recent years, more than 30 states have passed voter ID laws that disproportionately affect college students. Supporters says these measures prevent voter impersonation fraud. Critics dismiss this line of argument as a scare tactic. The type of fraud targeted by voter ID laws is actually less common than getting stuck by lighting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

And students are not the only groups that could be disproportionately affected by the law: An analysis by the North Carolina Secretary of State concluded that non-white and Democratic voters are especially likely to lack the state-required ID.

North Carolina legislators paid particular attention to college students this session, proposing several bills unpopular with young voters. For one, the state Senate pushed to stop a pilot program at the University of North Carolina to implement gender-neutral housing, a policy designed to help LGBT students on campus.

The legislature also passed a bill to allow concealed carry on campus, despite student opposition. Permitting guns on campus has proved highly unpopular among students, professors and college leaders nationwide, including in conservative states like Arkansas and Texas.

Gov. McCrory also sparked bipartisan outrage early in 2013 when he criticized liberal arts majors at public colleges, suggesting fields like gender studies should not be offered at state schools.

For all the controversy surrounding the voter ID law, it isn't as bad for students, or at least their parents, as an earlier proposal from the state Senate. That bill would have prevented parents from claiming their children as dependents for state income tax purposes if their children registered to vote using a campus address. Such legislation was similar to a measure proposed in Ohio that would've punished public colleges if students registered to vote in the state.

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