For many of those who voted last November, they might remember one of the six constitutional amendments that was on the ballot: “Require Photo ID to Vote.”
Fifty-three percent of Watauga County voted against this amendment. Ultimately, however, 55 percent of the state voted to approve the amendment. In a lame duck special session of the state General Assembly, lawmakers drafted and passed the legislation needed to enforce this constitutional amendment. Therefore, starting in November 2019, a form of photo identification will be required in order to cast a ballot in North Carolina.
Important to this discussion, included within the text of the new law, Senate Bill 824, is a provision that allows for our state’s public and private universities to receive approval from the State Board of Elections to allow for their college IDs to be used as a form of photo ID, bypassing a previous argument used to strike down the General Assembly’s first attempt at imposing a Voter ID requirement in 2013.
Disregarding that I personally do not see the need of ID in order to vote, there are pros and cons to App State using our AppCards as a recognized form of Voter ID.
To start off, the ability for college students to vote with their college ID enables out of state students to vote in North Carolina, a boon for those who may be unable to request an absentee ballot outside of a narrow list of reasons. Some students might not have an eligible form of ID under the provisions of Senate Bill 824. Additionally, students from out of state would find it hard to take the time to travel home to vote, which is also the case for students who may live in others parts of North Carolina. (To put in perspective, Boone is closer to Knoxville, Tennessee, than Raleigh.)
The underlying issue is that this is brand new territory for colleges and universities throughout the state, and many are unsure of how they should proceed, App State included. However, the plain text of the implementing legislation, Senate Bill 824, states that in order for App State to sign off on their IDs being used as acceptable Voter ID, the university must, at a minimum, certify that they have a method of “confirming the identity of the student that include, but are not limited to, the social security number, citizenship status, and birthdate of the student.” All students provide this information at least once in the process of applying for college, including through the FAFSA process, if one is eligible for student loans, and all of this information is maintained by App State.
Therefore, I personally believe the university must move forward and ensure that the required paperwork to enable AppCards to be used as a form of Voter ID is submitted. \But concerns must still be addressed by the university and all parties with vested interests in this issue, and I hope in the coming days we will hear more from not only SGA on this issue, but the university itself.
Whatever path the university might take, it must do it soon. If no paperwork is filed with the State Board of Elections by March 15, the university loses the ability to apply for AppCards to become a recognized form of Voter ID until March 2021, well after the 2019 municipal elections, the 2020 party primaries and the 2020 general election. This could disenfranchise thousands of App State students, and risk the loss of our campus polling place during early voting, which for the first time in years, is no longer a yearly act of political and judicial mudslinging.
The leadership of App State must be bold. This is uncharted water, yes, and it is understandable the university does not want to make a risky decision. But to not move forward with the process of certifying our AppCards as a form of Voter ID is to give those who would seek to disenfranchise certain Americans of our solemn right to cast a ballot. And that is undisputedly un-American.
So I say to students, get loud. Make your voices heard. Talk to your professors, let them know about this. Let our chancellor know. Let the administration of App State know where you stand, and let them know that all they need to do to make this happen is to sign a piece of paper.
Zach Finely is a sophomore political science major