Editorial: New voting restrictions could limit student rights

Kevin Griffin

Editor’s Note: The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

 From the voter ID laws in Florida to attempting to limit early voting in Ohio, last year’s elections demonstrated several instances of voter restriction across the country.

Recently, these phenomena have shown troubling signs of manifesting in our own state, in ways that are especially problematic to us as college students.
Two particularly important proposed measures, Senate Bills 666 and 667, signal a troubling trend for the voting rights of college students.

SB 667 would prohibit parents of college students from claiming their children as dependents for tax purposes if the student decides to register to vote in the town in which he or she attends college, as well require students’ voter and vehicle registrations to be from the same place.

SB 666 would “shorten early voting days, ban early voting on evenings and weekends and prohibit same-day registration,” according to WRAL.
We believe these new voting restrictions are unfair, unconstitutional and transparent attempts at political maneuvering.

The reasons given for these bills include cost-cutting by reducing money devoted to early voting as well as preventing students from skewing local elections, which is possible by the belief that students coming into a new town will vote with little understanding of local issues.

This country has gone through a long process of making voting accessible to as many eligible people as possible, and issues of cost should not be a factor in enforcing our rights.

As for students affecting local elections, it is true that we as students should be aware of the needs of the community at large, but while we are here in school, we are a part of the community. We spend much of our time here during the school year, and decisions made affect us as well. Students should absolutely have a say in local matters.

This is especially important for us here at The Appalachian.

The Watauga Democrat reports that 28 percent of the votes cast in the last election in Watauga County were by 18-24 years old – a substantial portion of the vote and one that can certainly affect election outcomes. Additionally, one of SB 666 and 667’s sponsors is Republican state Sen. Dan Soucek, who is a representative of Watauga County.

This legislation will not likely go far. The Supreme Court has ruled before that students have a right to register at college addresses.

These bills only go to show the vulnerability of college students and our need to be vigilant about attempts to limit our rights.